The story is the complex and compelling tale of a friendship between two boys in Wicklow, Ireland prior to and during World War I. Alec, the son of Anglo-Irish parents grows up lonely and friendless on his parents estate in Wicklow during the early years of the 20th century. He meets a local boy, Jerry, who shares his passion for horses. Alec's mother discovers the friendship and forbids him to spend any more time with Jerry. Their friendship is thereafter conducted in private until the outbreak of the First World War. Jerry signs up as his father is already in the British Army and the King's Shilling would be of great benefit to his mother. Alec feels no compulsion to sign up until his mother decides that he should. In France the two friends are stationed together, but now divided by rank as well as class. Their friendship with Bennett plus their own continued friendship eventually leads them to a tragic end.
In 2005 the actor and director Alan Stanford adapted the novel for stage and it was produced by Second Age Theatre Company and directed by David Parnell. The 2005 production starred Philip O'Sullivan as the father, Louis Lovett as Bennett, Sam Peter Corry as Alec and Fergal McElherron as Jerry.
How many miles to Babylon?
Three-score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candle-light?
Yes, there and back again.
If your heels are nimble and light,
You will get there by candle-light.
The rhyme is referenced in popular fiction and movies. It appears in the novel Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones. It plays a major part in the plot of the 1985 anime film Lupin III: The Legend of Gold Babylon. It appears in the novel Stardust and its film adaptation, which each show methods of travel involving a "Babylon Candle." Finally, it prefaces the essay "Goodbye to All That" by Joan Didion. It is also used as a plot point in C.E. Murphy's Urban Shaman.