In the Spring of 1914 a group of students at the Slade School of Art have gathered for a life-drawing class. Paul Tarrant is easily distracted by an intriguing fellow student, Elinor Brooke, but when Kit Neville — himself not long out of the Slade but already a well-known painter — makes it clear that he, too, is attracted to Elinor, Paul withdraws into a passionate affair with an artist’s model. As spring turns to summer, Paul and Elinor each reach a crisis in their relationships until finally, in the first few days of war, they turn to each other. Paul’s new life as a volunteer for the Belgian Red Cross is a world away from his days at the Slade. The longer he remains in Ypres, the greater the distance between himself and home becomes, and by the time he returns, Paul must confront the fact that life, and love, will never be the same again.