Stephen Desmonde was destined to succeed his father as Rector of Stillwater, but his heart was not in it. Neither the draw of the family homestead, the country roundabout, the security of a comfortable inheritance and living, nor the lure of marriage to Claire, heiress and friend of childhood, could counterbalance the obsession to paint. He tried -- but was considered ""a queer fish"", unpredictable and unorthodox, in the Settlement where he served his first year of training. This is a story of dedication to a demanding master, which brought in his brief lifetime nothing but scorn, abuse, obloquy -- and only flashes of recognition from the few of his peers who recognized his genius. The Continent offered him anonymity and a chance to work:- Paris, in its sordid haunts of poverty and vice was simply a means to an end -- but the quiet backwater of England's art world interpreted Pt at its worst; Spain, where he lost his dearest friend and patron, was from Stillwater's viewpoint, an escape from his patriotic duty to serve his country in war. And when- on his return- he attempted to use his genius in the cause of peace, that, too, turned into crucifixion for him. His lowly marriage was another way to escape into the unknown -- a chance to paint for himself -- and with his early death- for posterity. This is the best thing Cronin has done since Shannon's Way.