In the 1940 London blitz, George Ryland, a skilled engineer, and his wife Edna lose the style of life it took them years of struggle to obtain when they are bombed out of the house they own in a pleasant suburb. The nostalgic story of their small son Alex is set in the apparent calm of Oxford. Alex reacts with a mixture of hope and anxiety coloured by a selfpreserving humour to the unresolved conflict in his family and the distant violence of international turmoil which affects everyone. His childhood is a documentary both of external events as the Second World War develops and of the internal tensions of his parents and relations. The war and his parents' complicated response to their misfortune often burst in upon him, and he finds his father preserving his own optimism as an inspired teacher for him while his mother sinks under her frustrated materialism.