Horrific experiences of the blitz in wartime London and the spiritual bankruptcy of her lover and his Marxist acquaintances are seen through the eyes of Nan, a young Scotswoman, who has returned to her native Highlands to recover from a nervous breakdown. Her letters to her lover from the warm and friendly ambience of a widowed aunt's farmhouse reflect her innermost thoughts on the essence of being and the restorative effects of the quiet rhythm of country life. The shadows of the immediate past begin to recede, but her return to health is rudely interrupted by news of the brutal murder of a neighbouring crofter and the unsolicited attentions of a sinister stranger. The inevitable relapse brings her aunt, a practical and cultured woman, into contact with both lover and stranger and pits her optimistic, human and emotional approach to life against the theories and bleak logic of the two men. The recovery of the young woman brings aunt and niece even closer together in their understanding of life, but the final denouement, although imbued with hope, is inconclusive and leaves the reader to imagine the eventual outcome.
This is a subtly thoughtful and gripping novel, written with all the power of a master hand. Although written over fifty years ago, the book has a strange relevance to today's events. The blight of terrorism, the dominance of consumerism in everyday life, the absence of a spiritual dimension in domestic affairs and fears of the harmful effects of globalisation on the freedom and development of small communities, are symptoms of an uneasiness with regard to world stability and the erosion of traditional values and beliefs.