We seem to be together now, she explained, you and I both hopeless. I think we did the same things, she told her, we loved a man and we flirted and we took little drinks, but when I did those things there was nothing wrong, and for you it was terrible punishable sin. It was no sin for Melanie, she explained carefully, because the customs were different; sin changes, you know, like fashion.
Both Melanie and Millie are wholly dependent on their doctors and their sisters, who (inexplicably?) wield a great deal of power. Melanie is confined by illness, a condition compounded by childbirth, but it's really the doctor and the husband (and the sister!?) who control her fate. Her sexuality is strongly hinted at — the ecstasy that brought her to this place — but shame is stronger; while she seems to appreciate her relative freedom, we know it to be more suppressed than she admits.
Whether Melanie is dreaming, having a vision of the past, or experiencing some other supernatural phenomenon is never explained.
This slim novel provides a disturbing but worthwhile glimpse inside a woman's head, an opportunity for a woman of today to temporarily experience Melanie's 50-odd-year-old desperation and Millie's 150-year-old hopeless cause.