The Nautilus, a strange building shaped like the chambered shell of the same name, was built in South London in the early 1930's. Designed on Modernist and Utopian pronciples, it was a haven for a floating community of cosmpolitan refugees, intellectuals and artists. Now, at the end of the century, only two of the original inhabitants still occupy their chambers - Celeste Zylberstein, joint architect, with her late husband, of the Nautilus, and Francis Campion, an elderly poet. Gus Crabb, a dealer in bric-a-brac, is the only other resident until, to the Nautilus, like a hermit crab seeking a home, comes Rowena Snow. Of Indian/Scottish parentage, orphaned without family or friends, Rowena is in search of her own Utopia - or the Heligoland of her childhood imagination.
Shena Mackay is the author of two novellas, eight previous novels and four collections of short stories, the most recent of which, The Worlds Smallest Unicorn, was published in 1999.