When war breaks out in 1914, Paul Tarrant, a student at the Slade School of Art, leaves behind his attempted life as an artist and his beautiful fellow-student Elinore to tend to casualties on the front line. His life as a volunteer for the Belgian Red Cross is a world away from his days at the Slade, yet at times he can’t help but think of the life-drawing room as he nurses the mutilated, dying bodies of French and German soldiers. Paul’s feelings for Elinore are complicated by her contact with another fellow-student, Kit, who has been posted to a neighbouring field station, and by a visit from Elinore herself, who travels out to meet Paul in France before bombs force her to escape back to London. The longer Paul remains in Ypres, increasingly affected by the work he has to carry out, the greater the distance between him and Elinore becomes. By the time he returns home, and to the Slade, he must not only confront the overwhelming challenge of how to express all that he has seen and experienced in art, but must also face up to the fact that life, and love, will never be the same for him again.