Sanjay de Silva lives in Colombo, under the thumb of a controlling Sri Lankan father, having lost his English mother at an early age. When his father is diagnosed with cancer, he feels the ground shifting under his feet, the balance of power realigning. Though it is something he has dreamed of all his life, he is uneasy when it happens. Learning that he is entitled to live in England-thanks to his half-English parentage-he arrives in south London. It is 1980, the start of the glorious blue-rinsed Thatcher years, when every girl looks like Princess Diana but not every boy looks like Prince Charles. He meets and falls in love with a fellow Sri Lankan, Janine, who is old enough to be his mother and famous within the acid-tongued Sri Lankan community as 'a hooker of the very highest class, with royal connections'. Sanjay manages to buy an old wreck of a house in Brixton and succeeds, against all odds, in converting it into two flats. But all is not well with that house. At night there are voices . . . This is the story of south London's first Asian builder who in eight years developed and sold eighty-four flats, cashing in his winnings just before the crash of 1988. But at its heart it is about grief: how each of us copes in our inimitable way with the hidden mysteries of family and the loss of loved ones. Because, as Sanjay is about to find out, grief is only the transmutation of love, of the very same chemical composition-liquid, undistilled-the one inevitably turning to the other like ice to water.