In early 1960s, Tayo Ajayi sails to England from Nigeria to take up a scholarship at Oxford University. As he leaves his mother warns him not to fall in love with English women. In this city of dreaming spires, he finds a generation high on visions of a new and better world. And it really does seem as if the whole world is ablaze with freedom movements. The post-independence fires are burning brightly back home in Nigeria, fuelled by the politics of Pan Africanism and financed by a fortuitous economic boom. On the other side of the Atlantic, the US Congress is about to pass the Civil Rights Act and Che Guevara is busy trying to export the Cuban Revolution. Meanwhile, across the West, the first tremors of the countercultural and sexual revolutions are about to be felt.
It is in this heady atmosphere that Tayo meets Vanessa Richardson, the beautiful daughter of an ex-colonial officer. In 1960s Britain, they face racism from passersby, Vanessa’s father and the police. Tayo also worries about his own family’s acceptance of Vanessa and whether she will be able to cope with life in Nigeria. Vanessa, on the other hand fantasises about returning to West Africa, where she spent her early childhood, with Tayo. Just as Tayo is about to propose, he receives a telegram which prompts his return to Nigeria. Once back in Nigeria, a military coup prevents him from returning to Vanessa. A few years later, when he decides to visit Vanessa again, he is arrested at the airport.