Emma is sixteen and lives with her mother and her step-father in Paris. She attends a grammar school and thinks of herself as being fat and ugly – a modern teenager.
Emma has a vivid imagination and wild, unbridled powers of invention which she uses to create a parallel universe dominated by two women. On the one hand there is her obnoxious mother Catherine – an extremely beautiful, temperamental woman – who has turned the gym she owns into a boot camp where female pupils are instilled with a deep hatred of men. And, on the other hand, there is Sister Welsh, a similarly passionate and radiant heroine, who lives in Plymouth and appears to have walked straight off the pages of a nineteenth century novel. A hopeless romantic, she is head over heels in love with Captain Grant, one of Her Majesty’s mariners, and is desperate to escape the convent school where she lives, which is run by the strict matron, Sister O’Brady.
Somewhere between these two diametrically opposed versions of femininity, which only vaguely reflect Emma’s own life as a teenager, Emma tries to find a path of her own. Which role model should she follow? The question becomes all the more pressing when Emma meets a boy named Fabrice who shows an interest in Emma’s fantasy world – and in Emma. A boy? Interested in Emma? That’s something that’s beyond even her powers of imagination.