Geoffrey Garland is a young, three-year-old boy in an overcrowded, poor, and starving family in eighteenth-century London. His father and oldest brother struggle to find work and scrounge for discarded food while his mother is seemingly always with child. When one of the rich families his father does odd jobs for reports them to the Commission for Poor People, Geoffrey and his younger siblings are put into foster care and separated from the family until they can more adequately provide for so many children. Geoffrey ends up at the sprawling estate of Lord Brightwood, a kind man who provides Geoffrey with all the food, clothing, toys, and books he can ask for. But Lord Brightwood has a secret of his own, a taboo passion that will affect Geoffrey for many years and create a cycle that is entirely up to himself to stop.
Narrated in the first person, this story gives readers the perspective of Geoffrey beginning from the tender age of three. While the details of his relationship with Lord Brightwood would be considered by many as unthinkable or even appalling, the narration of these acts stays true to the character's naivete and innocence, sometimes with tears, often with love, admiration, and fondness. The subject and tones of this book are often overwhelmingly adult or graphic, but are still sometimes outshined and upstaged by the settings of dreary London or exotic India. Family plays a constant role in this story, as does the balance of corruption and redemption. Readers in search for a dramatic tale that will push their sensibilities and provide the viewpoint of a memorable and tragic character will be well satisfied with this read.