In a St. John's hospital in 1945, Elsa Evans keeps a furtive vigil over the deathbed of Abram Kean, the renowned sealing captain. Remembering her first husband and her two brothers killed in the trenches thirty years before, and another young friend, Noah, frozen on the ice during the sealing disaster of 1914, Elsa contemplates a hideous revenge. The shock of her own bitterness forces her to retrace part of her life which is interwoven with those of her former employers, Simon and Sarah Jenson. On the morning of July 1916, officer Lt. Simon Jenson, severely shell-shocked and demoralized after a year and a half in the trenches, fails in leadership, hanging behind his men as they march through into no-man's-land. When a figure emerges from the drifting smoke, he thrusts the blade of his bayonet forward not into the enemy but into the body of Charles Baxter, a comrade and the brother of his fiancée, Sarah. Surviving against the odds, and with his battlefield actions misinterpreted, Simon is feted as a hero. But when Simon returns from the war, Sarah finds him emotionally fragile and prone to violent rages- not even their young daughter Lucy can cheer him. Worse, their lives are soon overtaken by the shadow of blackmail, and Sarah and Elsa, Lucy's governess, are forced to reconsider everything they once believed about loyalty, valour, and responsibility.