In the fall of 1914, young Lusignan sets off for the Great War, having already survived a tragicomic Catholic childhood and a career as a disgraced author and journalist. But shortly before departing for Europe, he has an encounter with his fellow officer d'Argentuil suave, self-possessed, both a man of the people and an aristocrat that proves to be the defining moment in his life. Lusignan returns from the war a broken man, kept alive by a convoluted plan to reconnect with d'Argentuil by shadowing his old flame, the genteel Amalia Driscoll. Helping him in his plan are the young maid Concorde, another of d'Argentuil’s hookups, and the Capuchin monk Father Mathurin, who longs for martyrdom in a foreign land. As their lives interweave and their futures rise and fall, what emerges is a vivid evocation of an entire society in the midst of an astonishing transformation.