Stella is an expatriate New Zealander — artist, poet, author of short stories, and one single novel. She keeps a book stall in Camden Yard, London, where she earns her living selling secondhand books. Stella is a daydreamer, and idealist whose politics are just barely right of Marx. She is a “Green,” a staunch environmentalist. She lives with a handful of like minded young people, all artists, actors, musicians, activists in search of “the truth.” She has moved to London because she sees for herself a career as a great author of important literary works, and New Zealand is just too small to contain her search for that universal truth.
One day, in springtime, a man wanders into her small shop. A man of obvious breeding and a higher social station than the usual collection of Bohemians, hippies, yuppies, and punks who usually haunt Camden Market. When Stella looks up from her pricing of books a second time, the man is staring intently at her and holding a book on the early works of Cézanne. Stella is not so much a against capitalism as to pass up a joke about overcharging him. Soon, Mr. Prain is showing up every Saturday and they fall into an easy conversation about literature, art exhibits, politics, and various other things that passing acquaintances would discuss.
After a few months, Mr. Prain shows up at Stella’s stall one day and she is working on one of her poems. Upon request, Stella shows it to him and Mr. Prain reveals that he is the managing director of Coyman’s, England’s largest independent publishing house. Mr. Prain ask Stella whether she has written other things, at which point she admits her literary aspirations. Mr. Prain asks if he might read her work. The next weekend, she boxes up what she considers her best efforts and gives them to Prain. After reading them, he asks her around to tea to discuss her writing. 'Around' being a train trip north, near Oxford, to his his opulent country estate.