Set in wartime Estonia, this was the last novel by Peter Vansittart, one of the greatest historical novelists of the 20th century.
Erich's odyssey begins when his Estonian childhood is ended by the outbreak of World War II. He arrives in 1945 Paris, where his life seems full of promise. But a love affair drives him to England to work for the Estonian government-in-exile. His imagined island of monarchs, Churchill, and gentlemen evaporates into one of scornful youth, insular adults, and an underground of spies, political crooks, and fanatics. Sojourns in Europe further underline that war and corruption are not extinct and that, in his own life, the most profound shocks are those of friendship and love. Beneath the drift towards a united Europe, Erich realizes that treaties do not always end war, that solemn rites cannot guarantee love, and that the inevitable can fail to happen.