Bessie, scarred by a childhood of poverty in the slums of Victorian Birmingham and left a young widow with four children, is a hard, bullying woman who will go to disturbing lengths to keep her family under her thumb. Violet, one of Bessie’s children, marries young and escapes into the arms of a man whose life will be broken by war. Linda grows up on a large housing estate in the 1950s with older sister Joyce and her beloved young sister Carol. Torn from her longed-for place at the grammar school, she gives up hoping for anything better. It takes a tragic love affair to make her question the limitations of her life and the secrets that will haunt her family.