After a ferocious early-springtime storm, young Norwegian sailor Hans Lyngstrand is shipwrecked in the English Channel near the coastal Kent town of Dengate – he is one of few survivors. Soon after, aspiring journalist Martin Bridges takes a job as a reporter at the local newspaper. A loner by nature, he’s a curiosity to the nosy townspeople, the gregarious editor of the paper, and his melodramatic landlady, whose own private life is fraught by the unexplained absence of her son and suspicious disappearance of her husband. But when Hans moves into the Mercy Room of Martin’s boardinghouse to convalesce and Martin’s editor assigns him the task of interviewing the young sailor, it upends his otherwise uneventful world. Hans tells him of his travels at sea, how he survived the shipwreck and of his encounter with a ferocious sailor vowing to seek revenge, who Hans believes may still be alive. So begins a complex friendship between the two young men that will cause Martin to re-examine his past and future ambitions and his relationships with everyone around him.