The Sorrow of Belgium is a family epic which takes place from 1939-1947. Louis Seynaeve is eleven years old at the beginning of the story and attends a Catholic boarding school, where he together with three of his friends has a secret club called the "Four Apostles".
Louis' family is pro-German, and they are relieved when the Germans invade Belgium, as they feel the war will be good for Flanders and will help it to get out from under the domination of the French-speaking Belgians. Louis decides to become a writer, and once he begins to be exposed to other ideas and books, his opinion of the Germans slowly starts to change. When Belgium is liberated, Louis' family disintegrates; his father is arrested and jailed for collaborating with the Germans.
The book paints a detailed and colorful picture of Belgium: family relationships, village life, politics, poverty, Catholicism, and finally, it is an intimate portrait of a child's life and coming of age.