It was a strange, uncertain world that Harriet entered when she married Guy Pringle. Guy taught English at the university at Bucharest, a city of vivid contrasts, where professional beggars exist alongside the excesses of mid-European royalty and expatriate journalists with a taste for truffles and quails in aspic. Underlying this is a fitful awareness of the proximity of the Nazi threat to a Romania which is enjoying an uneasy peace.
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It is 1940, and Guy and Harriet Pringle and their friends in the English colony in Bucharest find their position growing ever more precarious. The phony war is over and invasion by the Germans is an ever-present threat... This is the second part of The Balkan Trilogy, which began with The Great Fortune and concludes with Friends and Heroes.
Bucharest has fallen, and Harriet and Guy Pringle have escaped to Athens in the nick of time to find several of their old acquaintances there already. But even Guy's eternal optimism fails him when he realises that his former employees feel no gratitude or loyalty to him. Guy and Harriet both come to realise that with Greece threatened by the Axis Powers, Athens is not the safe harbour they thought.