Charles Ashworth is privileged, pampered and pleased with himself. As Bishop of Starbridge in 1965, he "purrs along as effortlessly as a well-tuned Rolls-Royce" while he proclaims his famous "absolute truths" to a society which he sees - with rage and revulsion - as increasingly immoral and disordered. But then a catastrophe tears his life apart and confronts him with the real absolute truths, truths which so shatter him that he finds himself stripped of his pride and struggling for survival.
Grappling with the revelation that he has failed his wife, short-changed one son and distorted the personality of the other, Charles's guilt steadily drives him into the immoral and disordered life he has condemned so violently in others. Fighting against the threat of complete breakdown, he then embarks on a quest to rebuild not only his private life but his professional life, a quest which leads him to a final battle with his old enemy Dean Aysgarth in the shadow of Starbridge Cathedral.