Whilst sleeping in a strange bed in a strange land, five-year-old Stefan is lulled to sleep each evening by his father's extraordinary bedtime stories. He hears of the tragedy of Hermann the Birdman; learns of the terrible revenge of Elfrieda the pirate scourge of the Seven Seas; and listens to the deeds of Count Otto von Otto who sinks the Turkish Armada. These and other bizarre tales fill his young mind.
But as Stefan recounts his father's stories he peppers the tales with digressions about his family and growing up. Fairy tales and family tales echo and illuminate each other in this rich and dazzling story of the resilience of love; its histrionics and regrets, its jokes and its dubious table manners.