Born to an aristocratic family on an estate outside of Dublin, Alexander Moore feels the constraints of his position most acutely in his friendship with Jerry Crowe, a Catholic laborer in town. Jerry is one of the few bright spots in Alec's otherwise troubled life. The boys bond over their love of swimming and horses, despite the admonitions of Alec's cold and overbearing mother, who scolds her son for venturing outside of his class.
Inside his home in Derry, Joe Logan's life is ruled by his tormented father; outside, by the tension and violence of the Troubles. Sometimes his father makes him run errands despite the nearby reports of gunfire. Other times his mother, afraid to be alone with her volatile and war-wounded husband, confines Joe to the home. A bright and sensitive young man, Joe finds solace and freedom in writing - a pursuit encouraged by Kathleen Doherty, a young teacher at a nearby school whom he meets and befriends.
Seeking solace in the wake of her husband’s death, a woman embarks on a new life on the Irish coast, where her mysterious new neighbor offers a rekindled sense of happiness, however short-lived. Helen moved to a small ocean-side village for the isolation - to be alone with the waves, birds, and changing seasons. Newly widowed, she spends her days painting in her glass-walled studio atop a hillside on Ireland’s northwest coast.
Mr. Prendergast, an elderly Anglo-Irishman, is living out his last years in the decaying splendour of his family mansion. As his mind wanders through the gloom he finds it peopled with memories of his neglected wife, his pale shadow of a father, his icily glamorous mother and Alexander, the son she so jealously loved, killed in the First World War. With only his ill-tempered alcoholic gardener left to attend to him, Mr. Prendergast is content to pass his days in such ghostly company.
Late summer near Dublin, 1920, and up at the great house there are still cucumber sandwiches for tea. Slipping away from Aunt Mary and dotty Grandfather, 18-year-old Nancy has escaped down to the shore to dream in the beach hut - longing for her life to begin.
After a shocking accident, one family gathers for an unforgettable Christmas overflowing with secrets and revelations in this deeply felt novel by one of Ireland’s foremost modern writers. Henry has been estranged from his children since his divorce with their mother, Stephanie. But when a car accident claims the life of his second wife and leaves him with partial amnesia, Henry embarks on the fraught journey of making amends.
On a rainy afternoon on Killiney Hill, a young man walking, without his overcoat, happens upon a woman gazing out over Dublin bay, standing perilously close to the edge. From their testy encounter develops a remarkable friendship which will enable each to face afresh their very different, damaged pasts, and to look, however tentatively, toward the future.
In northwest Ireland, eighteen-year-old Miranda Martin lives in a country estate home with her father. A recent widower, he spends his days consumed by a project to reforest their tranquil Donegal surroundings. Miranda, on the cusp of adulthood, spends her summer engrossed in a chaste but passionate courtship with a local boy named Cathal. Members of the Anglo-Irish class and the Protestant Ascendancy, Miranda and her father are sympathetic to the burgeoning movement for home rule.
Imogen's brother, Johnny, disappeared thirty years ago, ostensibly the victim of a drowning accident - a story to which everyone but Imogen subscribes. Johnny was too good of a swimmer, she reasons, and his body was never found. Imogen alone believes that he is still alive. To get to the truth, she dives into her memory and her family's history, all the way back to World War I-era Ireland and the long-buried events that forever changed them.
When Sally's husband Charlie says he's leaving her, she makes him go at once. As a child growing up in Dublin, she never had friends thanks to her lonely, secretive unmarried mother who kept her at home with her. A succesful actress, she can effortlessly mimic others, but who is she, herself? With desperate courage she decides to visit her grandfather, a shadowy figure, in the forlorn hope that she can unlock the door to her past.