It is the summer of 1940 and Lisbon, Portugal, is the only neutral port left in Europe. It is a city filled with spies, crowned heads and refugees of every nationality, tipping back absinthe to while away the time until their escape. Awaiting safe passage to New York on the SS Manhattan, two couples meet. Pete and Julia Winters are expatriate Americans fleeing their sedate life in Paris. Edward and Iris Freleng are sophisticated, independently wealthy, bohemian and beset by the social and sexual anxieties of their class.