1944. Emily Dean is sent to stay with relatives in rural Victoria. With grandmother determined to keep up standards despite the effects of the war, Della, the Bible-quoting cook, and her young and fearless aunt Lydia, who refuses to befriend her, Emily just wants to go home. But things start looking up when she encounters Claudio, the Italian prisoner of war employed as a farm labourer. And then Lydia’s brother, William, unexpectedly returns from the war. Wounded and bitter, he’s rude, traumatised and mostly drunk, yet a passion for literature soon draws them together.