A side-glance at present day ireland by the novelist and New Yorker short story writer is so quick, light and elusive that the novel's effect is felt only later. Owen Hodgers, the son of a very old Irish ""kindly and musical man"", is fascinated by the cool, cynical ex-Boer war Captain Chesney, and by the flight to freedom and ruin of his five children after the Captain's sudden death. Alfred, whom the Captain had kept from a marriage to a servant girl, sinks into a semi-idiot life among brothels and bars. Frank becomes an uneasy priest. Edmund, the flashy business man and daredevil race track driver, cracks up and ends in a vacuous marriage. But Owen himself, and his family friend, the intelligent, worldly-wise, alcoholic priest, Dr. Grierson, also fall. Owen becomes not a doctor but a hotel manager, and his love for Maeve, the eldest Chesney daughter, is too and windswept. She leaves him for a boxer and he seduces Greta Chesney who kills herself. He eventually marries non-Chesney Lucy, of the tidy, modern ""peahen mind"". through fragments of old songs, other lives, the disintegration of the will old Irish country- of sheep, salmon, country estates, eccentrics and real ghosts is told. And is the Captain, who tried to discipline it, or Owen, who left it for the trade, the real monster. All these dark stories and surmises have a haunting poetry and violence in this tale of the encroachment of modern life on a semi- land.