When young Lusignan sets off from Ottawa to the First World War with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, he has already survived a tragicomic Catholic childhood and a writing career that has brought him both acclaim and disgrace. Shortly before the men depart for Europe, Lusignan has an encounter with a fellow officer, the aristocratic Essiambre d'Argenteuil, that proves to be the defining moment of his life.
Returning from Europe a hollow man, Lusignan keeps the memory alive by shadowing Amalia Driscoll, a woman whose strait-laced proprieties were challenged by this same d'Argenteuil. He encounters Concorde, the untutored young maid struggling to get by in the Flats district of Ottawa, and the Capuchin monk Father Mathrun, who longs for martyrdom in a foreign land. Providing the backdrop to Poliquin's incisive character study is a vivid evocation of a pivotal era in Canadian history.