The year is 1913 and everyone is on the brink of WWI without actually knowing it. The world as people knew it will change and life will never be the same.
Alice, a rebel in her own right - a female University student, with a publisher father and a French mother - quite unique for the time meets up with the landed gentry Edward Cobb and falls in love. The feelings are mutual but politics, family and ambition get in the way. Edward is destined for a seat in Knapley - a Conservative stronghold and Alice is "not quite right wife material". Faced with this Alice gives Edward the graceful way out despite her love for him and also being pregnant at the time. The story moves to Russia and the intrigues of Russian politics when she takes up a post as governess to the two younger children of Baron Rettenberg.
The details of life on the estate of the Baron, the intrigues of life there plus the ever increasing threat of revolution and the Russian Revolution when it does happen is focal to the story. The increasing threats to the Rettenberg family - the loss of their eldest son and then the next, the loss of all property both movable and immovable and the escape from their home with Alice being the stalwart one is very beautifully told. At the same time the war has broken out and all Europe is devastated by its effects. This goes on simultaneously with the story in Russia.
How Alice meets up with Edward now serving in the Army and much decorated for several brave sorties and how Edward discovers he has a son after so many years - the story of the Rettenbergs and the Cobbs are intertwined - the end is strange and not quite satisfactory and neat, but life is like that. Very, very nicely told.