From the very opening pages, we see many memorable characters as they move about the Ruttledges, who have come from London home to Ireland in search of a different life. There is John Quinn, who will stop at nothing to ensure a flow of women; ...
Johnny, who left for England twenty years before in pursuit of love; and Jimmy Joe McKiernan, head of the IRA, both auctioneer and undertaker. The gentle Jamesie and his wife Mary embody the spirit of the place. They have never left the lake but know everything that ever stirred or moved there. The drama of a year in the lives of these and many other characters unfolds through the action, the rituals of work, religious observances and play. With deceptive simplicity, by the novel's close we feel that we have been introduced to a complete representation of existence. An enclosed world has been transformed into an Everywhere.