This is an engrossing saga set in the North East of Victorian England. As the sixth of Mary Ingram's surviving children, Calandra - known as Callie - determines from an early age that she will not follow in her beloved mother's footsteps. Married into a fisherman's family near Hartlepool, Mary's life is one of hard work, unrelenting poverty and narrow horizons. One day, whilst gathering sea coal at the water's edge, Callie meets Patricia Lazarus and her brother James. Though their backgrounds are very different - the Lazarus children's great-uncle, with whom they are staying, is a lawyer - a friendship is forged that will last for ever. When Great-Uncle Harold offers Callie the post of companion to Patricia, it is the first step in her journey to a better life.