Summary: The presentation

The narrative shifts to Iris narrating in the first person, in the present day, when she is an elderly woman. She gets ready to attend a graduation ceremony at the local school. Walter drives her—he is the partner of Myra, a woman who helps Iris with day to day tasks. Iris reflects that, while no one speaks openly about it, Laura has become a larger-than-life figure because her death is widely assumed to have been a suicide. Laura’s novel, published posthumously, garnered attention because of the mystery surrounding her death and because the book was sexually explicit. Most people assume that the novel revealed that Laura had herself been involved in an affair. Iris assists in awarding a prize commemorating her sister’s memory to a young graduate.

Summary: The silver box

Iris has been diagnosed with a heart condition and doesn’t have much longer to live. Her doctor has recommended that she start taking regular walks, which she reluctantly does. Iris has also started to write a record of her life. Iris’s walks through the small town where she lives give her the chance to reflect on the changes she has seen over her lifetime. On her walks, Iris sometimes visits the graveyard where Laura’s ashes are scattered and where other Chase family members are buried. the Chase family are buried. In her recollections, Iris often references Reenie, who played a significant role in her childhood. Richard and Aimee, Iris’s husband and daughter, are buried in a different graveyard. Iris’s recollections of Winifred imply that the two women did not have a good relationship. Iris’s granddaughter, Sabrina, was raised by Winifred after Aimee’s death, and as a result, Iris and Sabrina are not close.

Summary: The Button Factory

During the summer months, Iris continues her walks, providing more information about the town in which she lives. Port Ticonderoga is a small Ontario town located at the junction of two rivers. The town’s economy was once driven by a button factory, established in the 1870s. It has long since closed, and after being abandoned for decades, has now been converted into a courtyard and boutiques. Iris’s grandfather, Benjamin Chase, founded the button factory, and as a result, her family was wealthy and socially important. Now, Iris lives alone, and although she struggles to be independent, she relies on help from Myra, who runs a small gift shop in the town.

Summary: Avilion

Iris continues to recount the history of the Chase family and Port Ticonderoga. She and Laura grow up in a large mansion, which is later converted into a home for the elderly. The house, known as Avilion, is built and decorated under the supervision of Iris and Laura’s grandmother, Adelia Montfort Chase, who came from a wealthy Montreal family. Benjamin Chase marries as a middle-aged man, having made a fortune and wanting someone to help cement the family’s reputation in high society. Adelia and Benjamin have three sons: Norval (Iris and Laura’s father), Edgar, and Percival. Adelia dies of cancer in 1913. At this time, Reenie’s mother begins working for the Chase family, and Reenie also starts to spend a lot of time at Avilion. After Adelia’s death, Benjamin’s relationship with his sons becomes more distant. All three boys have been well-educated and dream of more glamorous lives than staying in a small town and managing factories.

Summary: The trousseau

Iris reflects that her knowledge of the Chase family history comes from Reenie, who spent almost her entire life in close proximity to the family working as a nursemaid and housekeeper. In 1914, Norval marries Liliana, Iris and Laura’s mother. She is a serious young woman who, although from a good family, is not wealthy or glamorous. World War I begins almost immediately after the wedding, and all three Chase sons enlist and depart for Barbados. The war is initially good for business, and Liliana moves into Avilion where she keeps house for Benjamin. In August 1915, Norval’s regiment is stationed in Halifax before being deployed to France. Liliana visits her husband there, and this is when Iris is conceived. Iris is born in June 1916, and her two uncles are killed in battle within months of each other. Reeling with grief, Benjamin suffers a stroke. Liliana is parachuted into both motherhood and a significant role in running the Chase factories.

Summary: The gramophone

In 1918, the war ends, and Norval returns to Port Ticonderoga, scarred by both physical injuries and psychological trauma. Norval begins to drink heavily and have affairs with other women, straining his marriage to Liliana. Iris grows up amidst this tense and emotionally strained atmosphere. Laura is born in November 1919.