A nobleman and landowner named Ivan Lavretsky returns to Russia after leaving his faithless wife in France, only to fall in love with a beautiful and pious cousin, Elizaveta Kalitin. When Ivan learns by a newspaper article that his wife is suspected to have died, the way seems clear for him to find happiness with Liza. But her mother, Marya, is much taken with her daughter's other suitor, the cultured Panshin. This is a remarkably thoughtful and unassuming story, but it weaves a wonderful spell. The characters are undemonstrative, very little happens, yet by some quiet magic it manages to be very touching. Ivan and Liza both suffer unconventional, though different, upbringings and educations, neither of which seem to have prepared them for the world very well, dignified as they are. A sad and understated tale.