The first ten per cent or so of this book was a bit of a tough slog, perhaps due to getting used to a new author's style. But, I ended up loving this book.
David Sorrell is a journalist in Europe in the years leading up to World War II. Although times are becoming tough, there is still a cadre of "beautiful people", living a life of parties and idleness, the life of the good old times. He goes to a party in London and sees one of the hot things of the day, Anna Bolton. Anna is a rich American widow and the toast of the town. Sorrell remembers Anna from her growing up years in Lewisburg, Ohio. Then, she was Annie Scanlon, the daughter of "Mary the cleaning woman". She lived on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak, and vowed that one day she would "show" Lewisburg. When he first meets Anna at the party, Anna feigns not to recognize Sorrell, and he doesn't push it. He muses on how far she has come.
After some time, the "beautiful people" seem to have gathered in Paris. Anna fits into that society as well, but as the Germans begin invading France, she flees to the South of France. She makes a home for herself, for a time in a small town where she helps refugees. The beautiful people begin to wonder "what ever became of Anna Bolton?" Sorrell eventually finds her again and extracts her story.
So we have a story of a poor, but intelligent and ambitious woman leaving her poor beginnings behind and fighting her way into the top echelons of society. Then because of war and other interesting events, begins to realize how shallow that life was, a life that was essentially in its death throes anyway. She finds redemption in later life working to help mitigate some of the horrors the second world war has meted on innocent people. A wonderful story.