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The narrator is Fanny, whose mother ("The Bolter") and father have left her to be brought up by an aunt. She spends much of her time at Alconleigh, home of her cousin and great friend, Linda, the main character in this book. The romantically-inclined Linda begins by marrying a dull banker and MP, leaves him for an ardent Communist, but fails to find true love until her accidental meeting with Fabrice, a French aristocrat. The couple are separated by the outbreak of World War II. As a result of their liaison, Linda becomes pregnant - against medical advice - and dies in childbirth. Fabrice having been killed in the war, their baby son is adopted by Fanny and her husband.