1902. Babs and Beth are identical in looks, but very different by nature. Kidnapped by gypsies a decade ago as young girls, Beth has accepted their plight, but Babs has always yearned for their real mother, Tilly, and their beloved hometown of Blackpool. Desperate to be reunited with their mother, Babs hatches a plan to escape. But Beth is too afraid and Babs realises if she ever wants to go home she'll have to leave her sister behind.
1914. Babs' life has been blighted by misfortune ever since she walked away from her sister. She's never given up hope of finding her family, but now having found peace and purpose as a nurse, the war is sending her to France, away from them. Or so she believes . . .
In the heady summer of 1977, a naïve young woman called Calista sets out from Athens to venture into the wider world. On a Greek island that has been turned into a film set, she finds herself working for the famed Hollywood director Billy Wilder, about whom she knows almost nothing. But the time she spends in this glamorous, unfamiliar new life will change her for good.
While Calista is thrilled with her new adventure, Wilder himself is living with the realisation that his star may be on the wane. Rebuffed by Hollywood, he has financed his new film with German money, and when Calista follows him to Munich for the shooting of further scenes, she finds herself joining him on a journey of memory into the dark heart of his family history.
June 1572: for ten, violent years the Wars of Religion have raged across France. Neighbours have become enemies, countless lives have been lost, and the country has been torn apart over matters of religion, citizenship and sovereignty. But now a precarious peace is in the balance: a royal wedding has been negotiated by Catherine de’ Medici and Jeanne d’Albret, an alliance between the Catholic Crown and Henri, the Huguenot king of Navarre. It is a marriage that could see France reunited at last.
Meanwhile in Puivert, an invitation has arrived for Minou Joubert and her family to attend this historic wedding in Paris in August. But what Minou does not know is that the Joubert family’s oldest enemy, Vidal, will also be there. Nor that, within days of the marriage, on the eve of the Feast Day of St Bartholomew, Minou’s family will be scattered to the four winds and one of her beloved children will have disappeared without trace . . .
Sweeping from Paris and Chartres to the City of Tears itself – the great refugee city of Amsterdam – this is a story of one family’s fight to stay together, to survive and to find each other, against the devastating tides of history . . .
Every night on their long journey to Paris from their troubled homeland, Levon's grandmother has read to them from a very special book. Called The Nocturne, it is a book full of fairy stories and the heroic adventures of their people who generations before chose to live by starlight.
And with every story that Levon's grandmother tells them in their new home, the desire to live as their ancestors did grows. And that is when the magic begins...
Nobody can explain why nocturnal water dogs start appearing at the heels of every citizen of Paris-by-Starlight like the loyal retainers they once were. There are suddenly night finches in the skies and the city is transforming: the Eiffel Tower lit up by strange ethereal flowers that drink in the light of the moon.