It is the summer of 1914, and Beatrice Nash, 23, finds herself in Rye, in Sussex, attempting desperately to get a job as a teacher at the local grammar school. (As Latin mistress, of all things - very shocking for a female!) She has fled her late father's family, wealthy but highly controlling, to try to make her own, independent life, and is not finding it easy. For one thing, she's neither as old or as plain as they were expecting.
Down in Rye, she becomes involved in the lives of her sponsor there, Agatha Grange, Agatha's husband, John ("something at the Foreign Office"), and their two nephews, close as sons, Hugh Grange and Daniel Goodham. Hugh is studying medicine, and Daniel has aspirations as a poet.
When the war does break out, life becomes ever more complicated. Young men start to join up. There are panicked runs on food and other goods in the stores. The mayor's wife is even more impossible than usual. Young ladies of good breeding but little brain start handing out white feathers to young men not in uniform. Poor harmless dachshunds are attacked. And the town does its bit by taking in Belgian refugees.
There are four narrators - mostly Beatrice or Hugh, but occasionally also Agatha or "Snout," a boy in the village. Simonson writes well, so it's not really an issue; it's always easy to tell them apart.
This novel is every bit as good as Simonson's first novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, and a good historical novel. (I don't recall seeing any historical detail that struck me as improbable or just wrong.) A thoroughly enjoyable read - I dithered between 4 and 4 1/2 stars.