1922. Fleeing the Bolsheviks, Nina, a former countess, arrives in Shanghai along with thousands of other Russian refugees. She finds herself with her back to the wall in a strange country, alone, penniless, and rejected by both the white colonists and the Chinese. She knows that the “fallen goddesses” should keep a low profile, but she is obsessed with winning her life back.
In utter despair intermixed with bravado, Nina sets up a fake Czechoslovakian Consulate and uses its diplomatic status to trade in duty-free goods. But amidst the survival frenzy, all that keeps her going is the hope that someday she will be reunited with her beloved husband, Klim.
He has become an anchormen at a British radio station, and the crazy city called either the Splendor of the East or the Whore of Asia falls in love with him. It’s a tough competitor, especially given the dire circumstances of Nina and Klim’s separation. Now he doesn’t believe that she is the same wonderful girl he had fallen in love with.
Nina has to find a way to heal his and her own wounds and get back to normality, a luxury she couldn’t afford for years. But her new country is sliding into a civil war, seeing foreigners as its greatest enemies, and normality is not an option for anybody in China.