The year is 1794, it is the age of enlightenment, and on Vogelzang the master is conducting strange experiments in human breeding and classification. It is also here that Trijn falls in love. Two hundred years later and a thousand miles away, Sister Vergilius, a nun at a mission hospital, wants to free herself from an austere order. It is 1961 and her life intertwines with that of a gentleman farmer – an Englishman and suspected Communist – who collects and studies insects and lives a solitary life. While a group of Americans arrive in a cavalcade of caravans and a new republic is about to be born, desire is unfurling slowly.