Robert Maidens needs space, needs time. So, obviously, he leaves England for Albania, where his paltry savings are transformed into riches and make him a landowning grandee (and would-be hotelier). He's looking for a simpler, clearer, cheaper world, an old world; and he might just have found it - when feisty, fresh Charlotte zips up to his farm on her bike, having heard his first shots at marksmanship, she and her burst of red hair seem made for company.
But up in the village cafe someone older and wiser is reminding Robert that being in the old world brings with it more than just simple pleasures; there is much simple pain in this land too. Albania certainly is a strange place. It makes Robert act like someone else, and Charlotte too. History and power bear down on them, infiltrate their tranquility, infect their relationship.
As the Serbs strut and lunge in Kosovo, violence and fear ripple through the land and its people - suddenly, Robert and Charlotte are Foreigners, not friends. And then the boys with the Kalashnikovs appear . . .
In this book, Grant Stewart shows how history - personal and national - is made, altered, dictated. It is an extremely assured and stirring novel, honest about boys and guns: the reader stares right into the face of a man maddened by his fantasies of war, made stupid by the rifle in his hand.