Ellie lives in a very rough part of Boltby, an industrial town in the North West of England, and she often feels that she is the only sensible member of her family. Her mother is always on the tiles, her older brother is more absent than present, and her younger brother has Down’s Syndrome: they all need looking after one way or another.
But the bright spot in her life is the little antique writing desk that comes into her mother’s ‘Antique’ Shop, which by its very existence encourages her to write. Unfortunately she has really got a lot to write about, what with drive-by racists haunting their street, BNP stickering, and Asian lads fed up with being victimised.
As she becomes intrigued by the refugee story of her Jewish neighbour, who escaped from Germany after Kristallnacht, Ellie is herself unwittingly diarising the build up to race riots and widespread mayhem.