The scenario is settled at the beginning of the XXth century, right before the outburst of WW I with the murder of the prince of Austria, an event subtly knitted to the action taking place in the novel.
25 years old lieutenant Hofmiller, protagonist and narrator, is the prototype of the young man who has never cared much about anything but his own career and who has taken everything for granted during his whole life. Being good hearted, he hasn't yet experienced a strong attachment to a woman, nor he had even been deeply loved by any.
He describes himself as a not very thoughtful or introspective person, whose only worries were related to his horses and his position in the army.... until he meets Edith Von Kekesfalva. She is the lamed daughter of a Jewish rich man who became an aristocrat by purchasing the nobility title and changing his name.
Due to a gaffe Hofmiller commits [inviting the girl for a dance] a dense and excruciating relationship between both starts. The author delves deep into all the intricacies such a bond entails and the situations which arise when pity rules human behavior and is entangled with sincere love. Although the book may not seem very engaging at the beginning, the interest grows as the tension increases between the characters, leading to the dramatic circumstances that trigger the wonderful end.