Having talked about his parents and the moment when Uncle Giles turned up to announce that the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand the theme of the book becomes clear.
Just as in 1914 the threat of war is looming. There are major differences. Back then the idea of fighting was not only seen as inevitable but in some quarters was looked forward to like a sporting event. Now as the dark clouds start to loom over Czechoslovakia and the Munich agreement divides political opinion the thoughts are with money and how to make the most out of the situation.
Epitomising that awkward position is Magnus Donners who is trying to work out how war would impact his business interests. But Hitler affects other characters in different ways with Moreland unable to write his ballet because he feels so depressed. The reintroduction of Donners is as a result of an invitation to see the Moreland’s staying at a cottage he owns.
It is also a chance for Nick to meet his old friend Peter Templer who hasn’t changed much but has remarried to a poor woman, Betty, who has been driven literally mad by her husband’s adultery.