A town on the Faroe Islands at the beginning of the twentieth century provides the backdrop to this book. The lives of the central characters, the musicians, are interwoven with events and changes in Faroese society where music it at odds with a growing puritanism led by the local sectarians. Throughout the book there is a delicate, light humour that counters the bleak circumstances of life on the island.
Gone, gone. But they could could go down to the jetty and watch the music go aboard. The two boys hurried down there. Moritz was standing in the boat, carefully receiving the big double-bases in their man-like cases. A wind had got up. The water was full of bluish black banks of choppy sea. The steamer sounded its horn impatiently. The musicians stood chatting in small groups while they waited for their turn to go on board.
Evening was approaching. The lighthouse out on Seal Island was lit. There was a silent, slow movement of clouds across the heavens, lit from below by the light of the setting sun. It was like a final, visible echo of the symphony ... as though it lived on in some ghostlike manner up in the pale and distant light of the evening, but immortal nevertheless, while the steamer sounded its horn for departure and became smaller and smaller out there in the bottomless grey ocean.