William Masters, a young stoic historian, rents a lodge for the summer in the idyllic Irish countryside to finish his biography of Sir Isaac Newton in peace. However, he soon diverts his attention to his landlords, the Lawless family. They were once well-off lower-upper class family, but times have become tough for all of them. Middle-aged Edward is the friendly head of the household. He's been drinking heavily as of recently, and not just because he has a problem with the stuff. His still very attractive wife Charlotte has become a bit of an introvert recently and spends most of her time in the nursery garden, since that's their main source of income these days. Their niece Ottilie Garinger, a pretty young woman who's been living with them ever since her parents died in a car accident, is very glad that there's someone new in their lives and just wants to escape the miserable passionless existence that their family life has become. There's also little Michael, of whom Masters knows ...