Faulks examines the hopes, fears and passions of a few individuals and explores a world of fragile optimism, where the signs of another war are already on the horizon.
Anne Louvet has begun work as a cleaner for the Hartmanns in their manor house at Janvilliers and Charles Hartmann is beginning to feel disturbed by the power of his attraction to her.
Charles has rented rooms for the young waitress he has befriended at the Hotel Lion d'Or. She has agreed to go with him to a country house party. He tells himself that the trip is entirely innocent, but lets his wife think that he is away working for the government in Paris.
The love affair between Charles and Anne begins to look precarious as a political crisis erupts in Paris and, back home, Charles' wife becomes suspicious.
Christine Hartmann sacks Anne after suspecting that she is having an affair with her husband, and Charles returns from Paris to profess his love to Anne.