Sam and Ellen struggle to make a life for themselves and their young son after Sam's return from the brutal jungles of World War II Burma. Ellen has hoped for her husband's return for four years, but finds that it doesn't automatically set everything right. Their son hardly knows his father, and their relationship is a rough road. Life in their bleak home town in northern England offers them little except familiarity, but striking out for Australia is risky and irreversible. Their almost tragic inability to communicate their love for each other (a problem perhaps endemic to northern climes) threatens to blow apart their bond. Bragg's characterizations of both the people and their town are masterful. The resolution, coming in the last breath of the book, is really only the beginning of the story for this intelligent and capable couple. The stage for the second book in this trilogy is set.