The novel concerns the life of Georges, the son of a wealthy mulatto plantation owner named Pierre Munier, on Mauritius. While part-black, Georges is very light-skinned, if not white. As a child, he witnesses the British invasion of Isle de France. Because Georges’ father is a mulatto, the other plantation owners refuse to let him fight alongside them. Instead, Georges’ father leads the blacks and delivers a crushing blow against a British column. Refusing to acknowledge that a man of colour saved them, Monsieur de Malmédie and the other white plantation owners ignore the accomplishment. Monsieur de Malmédie’s son Henri mocks Georges because of this, resulting in a fight between the two. Afterward, worried about any retaliation Monsieur de Malmédie, Georges’ father sends Georges and his older brother to Europe to be educated.