In this accomplished first novel, the elusive narrator — no less than Mephistopheles — recounts Theodore De’Ath’s life before and during the Great War. Traumatised by a family tragedy, Theodore immerses himself the Inferno, Paradise Lost and Faust and is captivated by the Underworld.
The story, which begins in thinly disguised Wellington and Otago settings, unfolds against the backdrop of New Zealand military involvement and anti-German sentiment during World War I.
As he goes against the tide of social and family pressure, Theodore struggles to express his feelings for Elizabeth Paterson. Then he is obliged to join the New Zealand Division in France in 1916. Confronted with the obscenity of war, begins to understand what Hell truly means.