Set in the southern Persian town of Shiraz in the last years of World War II with the British army in occupation, the novel chronicles the life of Zari, a traditional, anxious and superstitious woman whose husband, Yusef is an idealistic feudal landlord. A web of political intrigue and hostility is created. In the background, tribal leaders are in open rebellion against the government and British occupation.
In the midst of this turbulence Zari carries on normal life within the beautiful courtyard of her house, attempting to keep the family safe from external events. The corruption engendered by occupation is pervasive as Zari's family life is shattered and disaster strikes. An immensely moving story, the novel is a powerful indictment of colonization.