Newlywed Nerys Watkins leaves rural Wales for the first time in her life, to accompany her husband on a missionary posting to India. As war engulfs Europe, the Watkins are in remote Ladakh, high up in the Himalayas. Nerys is lonely, but she makes a glamorous new friend, Myrtle McMinn, who introduces her to the lakeside city of Srinagar. Here, in the exquisite heart of Kashmir, the British live on carved wooden houseboats and dance, flirt and gossip as if there is no war. With her husband still up in Ladakh, Nerys has a new-found freedom to explore, and it is here that she first meets Swiss mountaineer Rainer Stamm.
But as war draws ever closer, life in Srinagar becomes less frivolous. With their husbands away, Nerys and Myrtle are caught up in a dangerous friendship with the younger, vulnerable Caroline Bowen. And by the time the men return life has changed beyond measure for all of them.
Years later, when Mair Ellis clears out her father's house, she finds an exquisite antique shawl, woven from the finest pashm wool in all the shades of lake water and mountain skies. Wrapped within its folds is a lock of child's hair. Tracing her grandparents' roots back to India and Kashmir, Mair attempts to unlock the secrets of their past in a quest that will change her life forever