Scottish author George Mackay Brown's novel Beside the Ocean of Time is set during the 1930s in the Orkney Islands, part of the British Isles, on the fictitious island of Norday. The novel features Thorfinn Ragnarson, the young son of a tenant farmer, as he grows up from childhood into adulthood during World War II.
Thorfinn is a daydreamer who loves history. Frequently feeling fed up with school, he fills his time with daydreams, and his daydreams take the readers on past historic adventures related to the island. His adventures include maneuvering a Viking ship through the Dneiper River to Byzantium, assisting Sir James MacTavish in the 1314 Scottish Battle of Independence at Bannockburn, and living in the Dark Ages as a Celtic songwriter.
In Thorfinn's real life, as an adult, Thorfinn meets the minister of the island's sister, Sophie, who becomes a love interest for Thorfinn and inspires him to become a writer. But Thorfinn must soon leave the island at the start of World War II when the military begins using the island for military purposes. Thorfinn is also taken prisoner and held in a German prisoner of war camp, where he begins writing historical romance novels and having them published.
When he is able to return to Norday after the war, he finds it abandoned and the fertile farmland annihilated due to the industrialization needed to build defense mechanisms to be used against the German forces. He leaves for Edinburgh, where he begins writing about the impacts of modernization, but soon returns again to Norday, where he tries to restore the uncomplicated life of his childhood and reunites with and marries Sophie.