The story has three distinct settings in which the action occurs. As it opens, we are plunged into the beautiful countryside setting of the Tallis family household in Surrey in 1935. War is looming and its presence is felt even in this tranquil setting. Then we jump to 1941 where we read about war-torn London, where both Cecilia and Briony are working as nurses, and Robby and Cecilia meet briefly once again. Lastly, we move to France and Robby's experience of war, which is of course first-hand, brutal and tragic. We must not of course forget the framing narrative, which ends zooming into the present, with the author, Briony, reflecting on her life as she attends a Tallis family reunion and reveals the true ending of the story she has just told.