The portrait of an end of an era--British rule in Ireland--and the demise of a class and way of life which had survived for centuries. A depiction of a young woman's coming of age in a brutalized time and place, the story is set in 1920 in County Cork, southern Ireland at the country home of Sir Richard Naylor and his wife, Lady Myra. The Naylors belong to the class of Anglo-Irish aristocracy known as the Ascendancy, whose way of life--moneyed, graceful, essentially feudal--is fast coming to a close. Behind the facade of set-piece dinners, tennis parties and army camp dances, all know that the end is approaching. When Sir Richard's niece, Lois, who is being courted by a captain in the British army, is lured by a menacingly playful and violent young man hiding on the Danielstown estate, class tensions arise and a fierce struggle for personal freedom ensues.