Usually when Cookson lifts her knife for her customary slice-of-life, it's headed for a nice juicy Sunday roast, soothing and hearty. Here, however, the fare is wet noodle. Charlie McFell is the wrong son for the wrong father, sensitive spawn of a boorish and cruel turn-of-the-century Northumberland gentleman farmer who used to beat his farmhands upon a cinder path out back behind the main house. When the father dies and Charlie inherits all, there are problems. Charlie's heart isn't in farming. Charlie's heart, in fact, is Lord only knows where, and he's being constantly manipulated: into a marriage he doesn't want, conscripted into the Army, bullied by a sergeant who was a former farmhand of his father's, and finally kicked upstairs into a commission after he finds his nympho wife in flagrante with a staff major. The Great War is presumably meant to toughen up this man-of-milk-custard--he's brave, he takes a lot of shrapnel and survives to Find his place at last in the arms of his original love, his wife's sister. But Charlie's one long limp stammer through life makes these cinders exceedingly wet, the path just about aimless.