* Chapter 1 ("About the Stars and the Sluice") describes the Fens of eastern England.
* For hundreds of years, engineers have attempted to drain the Fens and reclaim the land for agriculture, building canals, locks, and sluices.
* The narrator's father, Harry, is the lock keeper at the Atkinson Lock on the River Leem. He has two sons, Tom (the narrator) and Dick.
* The Cricks come from an old Fen family that has subsisted on trapping eels for centuries.
* In Chapter 2 ("About the End of History"), the novel jumps from 1943 to 1980. Tom is a high school history teacher, and the headmaster has told Tom he will be cutting history from the curriculum and retire Tom.
* Tom suggests his forced retirement may have more to do with a scandal involving his wife stealing a baby.
* One of Tom's students, Price, challenges him on the usefulness of history, and Tom switches...
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