Against the backdrop of monumental change taking place in 1956 throughout the world, the cantonment of the British High Commission in Peshawar, Pakistan, remains a corner of traditional England. The Jacksons’ working class origins ensure they are kept on the fringe of diplomatic life and, for their nine-year-old daughter, Ella, growing up is a lonely, painful experience.
Locked in a sterile marriage, her parents’ dissatisfaction with each other finds expression in their neglect of Ella. Left increasingly to her own devices, Ella withdraws, recording the hypocrisy and cruelties of adult behaviour in her diary, A History of Insects.
Here, among her thoughts, she describes, when no one will believe her, the murder of a native man and a secret capable of destroying the English community.