Little Emma Eliza Saunders, the eldest child of a poor cottage family in rural south-west Norfolk, grows up in the 1860's with the memory of a boy who befriended her as a toddler but who then vanished from her life. Her village childhood follows the traditional pattern, disrupted by her mother's death when she is thirteen. She then goes as a servant to Breckles Hall. Four years later she meets a young man called Jabez Smith whom she believes is the friend of her earliest days. The wife of the Hall coachman, George Starling, dies leaving two little girls, and Emma has to decide whether to accept his proposal of marriage, which will involve being uprooted to live far away in industrial Yorkshire. In the 1920's Emma recounts some of her life to her granddaughter Lily, who writes it all down in Emma's own words. It is then completed by Lily's daughter, who puts together the family history. This moving and fascinating tale will delight the reader.