Ali is an upper class Muslim man, whose family holds a great deal of power in Baku, Azerbaijan. At that time, before World War One, Azerbaijan was part of the Russian Empire. Nino, Ali’s lover, is from neighboring Georgia and is Christian, but the two are deeply in love and elope to the countryside. The story follows the two, who get married, through World War One, which only sees some of Ali’s friends sent off to war. After the Russians surrender, however, conflict comes to Baku. Ali fights the Bolsheviks with the Azerbaijani militia and Nino helps nurse wounded soldiers during the March Days massacre in Baku.
Ali and Nino are teenagers from upper-class families living in Azerbaijan just before the First World War. He is Muslim, she is Georgian – and Christian – but they love each other and marry young despite the reluctance of their parents. There are problems – of course! When Ali takes his bride to spend several months in Persia she is appalled to realise how her freedom is being curbed. While living in luxury she is shocked to be sequestered in a harem, and put through the humiliation of being treated like an Eastern bride by the housekeeper who is a eunoch. Nino has been used to living very freely as a modern young Western woman, so the clash between East and West and between the traditionam Moslem life and the twentieth-century independance of her upbringing is very marked. Then the Great War breaks out, and things get worse.