Set in Ireland, opening in 1921 during the Irish War of Independence, Captain Gault finds himself the target of arsonists who aim to set fire to the homes of protestant land owners. Trying to protect the house Gault lets off a gunshot which accidentally wounds one of the arsonists in the shoulder, a troubled boy known to Captain Gault. Filled with remorse Gault visit’s the young man and his parents and offers them money. It is incredible that he feels that he is the one who is in the wrong, but that is his perception. The money is refused, and in fear of repercussions for his actions he decides to move his family (wife and daughter) to the safety of England.
The Captain’s daughter Lucy is distraught at the thought of leaving her beloved ‘Lahardane’, but she is only eight years old and doesn’t understand the trouble surrounding them. No matter what she says, she cannot change her parent’s mind, so there is only one thing for it – she runs away. Lucy believes that once her parents find her they will understand just how much she doesn’t want to go and they will change their minds, however, Lucy injures herself and never makes her intended destination. A search is made for Lucy once it is realised that she cannot be found in her usual haunts and, when clothing is found on the beach, it is supposed that she has gone for a swim and drowned. Travel plans are delayed in the hope of finding a body, but eventually the grieving Captain and his wife leave, not for England as now that is not far away enough but for Europe with no forwarding address.
Henry and Bridget are two servants left to maintain the herd of cows and the grounds, and shortly after the Gault’s departure Henry finds a bundle of clothing – and within it a starving child close to death. His life and that of his wife’s will change forever.
With no forwarding address the Captain cannot be contacted and although various relatives are tracked down, the fact that Lucy has been found goes no further than these relatives for various reasons.
As Lucy grows up, her vigil for her parents remains unwavering. She is convinced that they will eventually return, but as the months turn into years this vigil will have an unalterable impact on her life and happiness.
I absolutely loved this, it is incredibly sad, but it is so beautifully written that you hardly notice how tragic it really is.