After Adeline's mother died, her affluent father remarried a French-Chinese teenager, Niang, and the family moved to Shanghai where they lived in a large house in the middle of the French Concession.
During this time, the 1930s, when everything western in treaty ports such as Shanghai was deemed superior to anything Chinese, Niang was the ultimate status symbol and Adeline's father was besotted. But while Niang gave her own two children beautiful clothes and lovely presents, she treated her five stepchildren harshly and with disdain. Adeline in particular was considered inferior and insignificant and she was bullied and beaten by her siblings. When the family moved to Hong Kong in 1949, Adeline was banished to a boarding school from which she was rarely allowed home.
Set against a background of changing political times and the collision of East and West, this text describes how the complexities of family relationships were to come to a head at her father's and Niang's deaths. It also tells of how Adeline survived the traumas of her childhood to make a successful career for herself.