The setting for the story is the fictional boys' school, Brookfield. It is thought to be based on the Leys school in Cambridge, England, which the author James Hilton attended. However the real-life inspiration for Brookfield is perhaps of secondary importance. What really matters is that Brookfield is a rather idealised location, which is in keeping with the book's overall sentimental tone, as the title character looks back over his life with a sense of fond nostalgia. Most of all the book is a kind of lament for a vanished way of life, in England before the catastrophe of the First World War.