In Paris during the 1970s, Danielle discovers a cultural map of comforting symmetries and angularities
. The French, she finds, live by a "coded" system of manners: "if you spoke properly and wore the right clothes, people left you alone." Frenchwomen, she decides with admiration, are "tougher than Canadians, as practical as men about love," and eager to teach a newcomer "how to tie scarves and where to put perfume." Danielle expands and exults in "this cool, tight place." And soon she falls in love with a young man she would have been unlikely to encounter in Toronto: Osman Harris, half Turkish, half English, a dealer in fine imported rugs.