The scene is Ireland. The time, 1916, is the eve of the famous tragic Easter Rebellion in Dublin, which startled Europe even in the midst of the First World War.
A single Anglo-Irish family provides the extremely diverse characters. Pat Dumay is a Catholic and an Irish patriot. His relentlessly pious mother pursues her own private war with his step-father, a man sunk in religious speculation and drink. Pat's English-bred Protestant cousin and rival, Andrew Chase-White, an officer in King Edward's Horse, puzzles out his complex emotions about Ireland and Frances, the girl he loves, against a background of the fear of death, while Frances's father, Christopher Bellman, scholar and cynic, finds love of Ireland a more passionate matter than he had bargained for. Weaving these people together into a tragi-comic pattern moves Millie Kinnard: fast, feminist, and only just respectable.
As rebellion looms nearer, tension mounts in the sombre rain-soaked Dublin streets; and if, in the end, death disperses most of the people, this is felt to be as inevitable as in a Sophoclean play.