It is 1949 and the Chinese Republic is collapsing under Mao Zedong’s communist onslaught.
Manying, distressed and frightened and unsure of the fate of her soldier husband, must flee Nanjing with her baby. With the help of her beloved childhood sweetheart, she finds a place on the last train leaving the city and endures a horrifying journey to Hong Kong where she is taken in by her brother and sister-in law. Grief-stricken and destitute, she struggles to make sense of the world in which she now finds herself.
As she recalls the cruel fate of her uncle at a provincial court half a century earlier and all that has been lost, she makes a discovery: the past shapes the present. Fate, however, has yet more in store for her. Love, war, sacrifice, corruption and revenge all play their part in this epic story that reaches its climax in twenty-first century Shanghai.