This story follows the fortunes of Jim, first mate of a ship Patna which is abandoned along with the passengers. Jim suffers shame in court for 'dereliction of duty'. And in abandoning his responsibilities Jim is always on the run from his past which affects all his relationships. Only in a faraway culture and settlement - a small island in Malay Peninsula (southern Thailand and Sumatra), does he find respect and marriage. But not quite peace . . . In its social context the novel and the character of Jim reflect the changing values and difficulties facing a fading empire.