A young English biographer is working on a book about the late writer, John Coetzee. He plans to focus on a period in the seventies when, the biographer senses, Coetzee was 'finding his feet as a writer'. He embarks on a series of interviews with people who were important to Coetzee - a married woman with whom he had an affair, his favourite cousin Margot, a Brazilian dancer whose daughter had English lessons with him, former friends and colleagues. Thus emerges a portrait of the young Coetzee as an awkward, bookish individual, regarded as an outsider within the family. His insistence on doing manual work, his long hair and beard, and rumours that he writes poetry evoke nothing but suspicion in the South Africa of the time.