The son of an English father and Russian mother, Charlie Doig is a naturalist. He roughs it around the world collecting birds and insects. In 1914 he's on a mission in Russian Turkestan when war breaks out. Doig has no intention of volunteering to be killed, so returns to the Pink House, his family's home near Smolensk, and to the woman he loves, his cousin Elizaveta.
At first the Pink House remains almost untouched by outside events. But imperial Russia is doomed and with it all the old certainties. When Elizaveta's fianc� is assassinated, Charlie fulfils his greatest wish and himself takes her as his bride. The very next morning he finds two men approaching the house through the falling snow. Against all his instincts, he gives them shelter. Trapped by the snow with Doig and his new wife are a motley collection of old aristocrats, their servants and hangers-on -and the two soldiers, one of whom Doig is convinced is a Bolshevik out to destroy them all.