Still in her teenage years, Nazneen finds herself in an arranged marriage with a disappointed older man.
Away from her Bangladeshi village, home is now a cramped flat in a high-rise block in London's East End. Nazneen knows not a word of English, and is forced to depend on her husband.
Confined in her tiny flat, Nazneen sews furiously for a living, shut away with her buttons and linings - until the radical Karim steps unexpectedly into her life.
On a background of racial conflict and tension, they embark on a love affair that forces Nazneen finally to take control of her fate.