During the First World War five French soldiers, accused of a cowardly attempt to evade duty, are bundled into no-man's land and certain death. Five bodies are later recovered, the families are notified that the men died in the line of duty and the whole, distasteful incident appears closed. After the war the fiancee of one of the men receives a letter which hints at what might have happened. Mathilde Donnay determines to discover the fate of her beloved amid the carnage of battle. A Very Long Engagement turns into an unusual and engrossing thriller as she discovers an increasing number of people trying to put her off the scent. Japrisot's achievement is to have written a novel that is both a suspenseful thriller and one which transforms a single small incident into the epitome of all wartime atrocities. The denouement, when it finally happens, is moving and horribly convincing.