What seems at first like a perfunctory tale of young love thwarted soon becomes something else in William Trevor's expert hands, yet the small twists that take place are never less than psychologically true.
Ellie is married to Dillahan, a farmer with a sad past: because of him, his first wife and baby died in an accident. Ellie, an orphan brought up by nuns, has no way of reaching into Dillahan's past to help him, and their marriage grows stale. That's when she notices Florian Kilderry, when he ventures into the village of Rathmoye to take photographs and asks her for directions. She catches sight of him again, another day, and begins to look out for him. Florian, left alone after the death of his parents, is selling their house and moving abroad – but not before he and Ellie fall in love.
Watching it all is Miss Connulty, with her own tragic past, terrified that Ellie will be abandoned by the young man, and that her marriage will be ruined. Why Miss Connulty cares so much is gradually revealed, in this gently beguiling tale that nips and hurts just as much as it caresses.