In 1920 Julia Robertson is a young, beautiful war widow, aware of the radical new ideas bursting into the settled thinking of post-Victorian Canada. That new thinking, about the human unconscious through Freud and Jung, about sexual frankness, about women as well as skepticism about religion, shaped the emerging 20th century world and infused modern painting, music, and literature.
Julia struggles with her conscience over the man she most trusts when she is passionately infatuated with another, an Englishman. He leads her into the orbit of the young and charming Prince of Wales. Leaving behind the stuffy world of Halifax, she goes to London and Paris and then the South of France where she renews her close friendship with one of the great Canadian painters of the period, J.W. Morrice. She becomes part of Morrice's circle of artists and admirers, among them Henri Matisse, who was Morrice's close friend. Ultimately Julia has to resolve a dilemma that dramatically tests all her progressive ideas.
With this novel Robert MacNeil returns to a character who first appears in his bestselling novel set at the time of the Halifax Explosion, Burden of Desire. "Julia's appetite for life and her bold embrace of the modern world was so vivid to me that I had to follow her life into the postwar world," says MacNeil. The result is a fascinating account of a young woman in the midst of a world in transformation.