The story begins when young Pandora Crumbe's mother dies suddenly at the luncheon table, and Pandora falls into the care of Lady Mariana Morningquest and her husband, whose celebrated musical talents have infused all of Boxhall Hill manse with an air of enchantment. The once lonely Pandora soon finds herself building "tree-palaces," chatting about Stravinsky over tea, and gradually, startlingly, taking on an essential role in her new family - a family she loves deeply, and that loves her in return. Pandora flourishes. Her insight, grace, and imagination lift her to success at college, where she studies art. But the other Morningquest children seem to fade under the harsh lights of adult reality.