'I am holding on to that summer, not just in my thoughts but with my whole body, from my numb fingers down to my toes. The summer when the river was ours, and so was the boathouse, the city, the meadows and the reeds at the water's edge. Happiness only exists when you can touch it and I held it, I'm still holding it, that summer of 1939, now, here tonight.'
Two young oarsmen are trained as a coxless pair by a mysterious German coach in the golden summer of pre-war Amsterdam. Through the pressure and rapture of physical exertion, teamwork and victory, Anton the shy outsider and calmly self-confident David, forge an intense relationship while the grim developments on the world stage remain at a great distance. But on the wintry eve of Holland's liberation, Anton stands on the bank of his beloved river and mourns a lost world: David has disappeared and the boathouse is now derelict and deserted . . .