Set in the 1940s, the wife of a war prisoner lives in desperate loneliness and fear on an isolated farmstead. She encounters a young farmboy completely out of his element as a soldier, and the two carve out a relationship in defiance of the war around them. His decision to escape the military and to dress as his lover's sister to avoid detection eventually leads to tragedy.
In a late essay Bates discusses the long evolution of the story's plot, conceived in 1943 with two sisters and completed in 1968 with just one, in what Bates calls 'an exceptional example of stumbling and groping or, if you will, of my own prolonged stupidity.'
A film version starring Oliver Reed, Brian Deacon, and Glenda Jackson was premiered in November 1972, and issued in the United States with the title Soldiers in Skirts.
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