Restless and undisciplined Daphne is a nuisance to her parents and those around her. In the summer of her eleventh birthday, her life is changed by the arrival of Ljuba, a Russian maid, whose radiant sensuousness disrupts the apparent order of the household. Ljuba marks Daphne's adolescence since, with her, or because of her, the girl discovers human passions and the mysteries of life.
"I don't see how she can walk around all day in those heels" Mummy says, and "That carrot-coloured hair, you'd think she works in a bar" and "The way she gulps down wine! I've hardly taken a sip and she's emptied her glass" and still more "Have you seen the way she eats fat? I've never seen such a thing. Can't she see that she's shaped like an urn?"
Daddy laughs a little, but says nothing. And I say nothing, because I don't know what an urn is and I don't want to ask, from the way Mummy says it, it must be something very fat and disgusting, but I think that most of all Mummy gets annoyed because Ljuba makes a noise when she eats, she makes a noise when she washes the dishes, she makes a noise when she walks, and even more when she laughs, because she laughs very loudly and she laughs all the time, "you can hear her all the way to Patission Street" Mummy says, and our house is no longer quiet like it used to be.."