Uncomfortable and unsettled in London he accepts an invitation to spend Christmas at Hannesford Court, the country house where he spent many summers before the war and to which he had vowed he would never return.
It's almost as if nothing has changed. Cards in the library after dinner. The Boxing Day shoot. The New Year ball. Margot!
And Tom has not forgotten the German professor who died suddenly that last year. He begins to question: during all those years observing the glittering life of the owners of Hanneford, how much did he really see or understand?
The Year After has a mystery at its heart but it is also a very moving story about love and loss. About a nation of people suffering from shock and grief in the immediate aftermath of WWI. Of survivors struggling to maintain things the way they have always been and not yet comprehending that can never be.
The author's beautiful evocative prose captures perfectly the sunshine and roses, the lighthearted gaiety of the summer of 1914 and contrasts it with the bitter cold and icy landscape of the winter of 1919.
The villagers and the guests gathered at Hannesford for Christmas reflect the attitudes and opinions of different sections of society..
" 'Those of us who went out there want to forget all about the blasted war. Those who stayed here are determined not to let anyone forget it. Suddenly all the men who died are heroes, but the ones who came back are ungrateful fellows who get a bit moody and a bit awkward and rather let the side down.' "
" 'He (the Vicar) doesn't want Hannesford to have its own memorial to the fallen.''The vicar wants to spend the money on the village school. You know the sort of thing.Education for the children of heroes.' "
" ' My generation of young women find themselves in peculiar circumstances. A very large number of us will never marry. We may as well be frank about the situation. It is a simple question of mathematics.' '
" ' Did you notice all those photographs, Anne. When we went around the village on Christmas Day? A picture on every mantelpiece, the same in every village around the moor, like a thousand tiny lights still burning.' "Compelling and emotional reading! I recommend.