The plot — if there can be said to be a plot — is set in 1920s England, the book is written as if a travel memoir by a young Scotsman who had been invalided away from the Western Front, “Donald Cameron”, whose father's will forces him to reside in England. There he writes for a series of London newspapers, before being commissioned by a Welshman to write a book about the English from the view of a foreigner.
Taking to the country and provincial cities, Donald spends his time doing research for a book on the English by consorting with journalists and minor poets, attending a country house weekend, serving as private secretary to a Member of Parliament, attending the League of Nations, and playing village cricket.
The village cricket match is the most celebrated episode in the novel, and a reason cited for its enduring appeal. An important character is Mr Hodge; a caricature of Sir John Squire (poet and editor of the London Mercury) while the cricket team described in the book’s most famous chapter is a representation of Sir John’s Cricket Club — the Invalids — which survives today.
The book ends in the ancient city of Winchester, where MacDonnell had gone to school.