As the Biafran war erupts in 1960s Nigeria, three people are caught up in the turbulence: a thirteen-year-old houseboy, Ugwu; his master's mistress, Olanna; and Richard, a shy young Englishman. Their ideals and loyalties are tested while they flee from advancing Nigerian troops.
The British empire was on the verge of revolution and at the centre of events are the Stuart sisters: Mary the Queen, and Anne the Queen-to-be, continually haunted by the memory of their father, James II, whom they have wronged.
Although her father is greatly respected in their community, 15-year-old Kambili knows a frightening and abusive side to this man. In many ways, she and her family lead a privileged life, but Kambili and her brother Jaja are often punished for failing to meet their father's expectations. After visiting her aunt and cousins, Kambili dreams of being part of a loving family.
Two strangers arrive at Hundred Acre Field and the rumour is that a large housing estate is to be built there. While the protests and public enquiry take place, the villagers have other cause for shaking their heads when Miss Jackson falls in love and Joseph Coggs takes flight from Tyler's Row.