Set in London and Cornwall in 1917 – Julia Ashton is married to Rafe (representations of H D and husband Richard Aldington) who returns on leave from the trenches, leaves writes letters to his wife and returns again. Among their friends are Frederick and Elsa (DH and Frieda Lawrence) Bella (Dorothy Yorke) and Vane (Cecil Gray).
Julia is still mourning the loss of her baby, as she tries to come to terms with her husband’s infidelity. The world of the people surrounding her is a peculiar one – one of a dreamlike unreality – like actors on a stage they play out their relationships to a background of war. When Frederick arrives on the scene he persuades Julia to go to Cornwall, and it is here that she is finally able to make sense of what has happened, and start to face the future.
The novel has a rather claustrophobic and dreamlike quality; the writing is very beautiful, the prose having a very poetic feel to it – which is not surprising given that the author was best known as a poet. There are some very poignant moments – the scenes between Julia and Rafe as their marriage is ending were brilliantly portrayed and quite obviously hugely personal to the writer.
Interestingly in the afterword to this edition H.D’s daughter Perdita Schaffer describes how she came to meet her natural father Cecil Gray in 1947 – she was the result of the brief liaison between H.D and Cecil Gray after H.D’s marriage to fellow poet Richard Aldington came to an end. This is part of the story, of the people who are behind the characters in the novel.