Virginia leaves a little Australian city and the certainties of a neat brick house to study art in London. She thinks a steely ship and the expanse of crinkled blue will help her escape from the past, but the old life is always with her - lapping wave-like at her mind in memory, preserved as pencilled images in a folder of drawings, leaping to ensnare at each port from the pages of letters. It is the past and the dangeroous innocence she owes to it that propel her on - as much as the example of her travelling companion, Kate - seek unreal romance in a stranger's cabin. On the too big sea Virginia flounders, and in London finds she has yet other memories to blot out.
Even the affinity she feels for the greyness, grubbiness, flawed age of the city; even art , which once was all that mattered, cannot help her as she tries to forget. Aloneness is unbearable, and she seeks warmth in a sterile relationship that ends in the reality of an abortion. Only then, hardened enough to hurt, can she slice away the veils of the past. Paradoxically, it is now - when she expects nothing - that dreaming proves reliable: summer comes, and Virginia's sea turns calm.