Domestic saga, English-mining-family variety--in a sturdy, tea-on-the-hob tale that covers the 1900-1918 period and features that courageous Mare, Charlotte Hall. Charlotte's marriage has taken her from decorous Bath to the black steaming mountains of coal waste and small grimy houses of Hillsbridge; and the prewar years will be marked by Charlotte's grinding toil to earn enough money so that her son Jack, who's so unlike her other boys (he's the result of a long-ago dip into adultery), may study to be a teacher and escape the pits. But Jim, Fred, and Ted work in the mines--until the war, which takes three sons and returns two, Fred having died a hero's death. And it's son Ted, the ""scallywag"" and restless roamer, who has the most tragedy-wracked story: his adored true love, tormented yet brave Becky Church, is raped by hateful Rupert (to whom her religious-sadist father tried to wed her) and dies from a home-nostrum brew meant to abort the child thus sired; Ted, a POW thought dead, returns to punch slimy Rupert (with fatal results) and is tried for murder; and he is Finally rescued from past grief by a witchy little loner, neighbor Rosa Clement--but only after mum Charlotte lobbies hard against a Rosa/Jack combination. (Rosa's not toney enough and certainly no scholar, so it's lucky that Jack, a flyer wounded seriously, falls for nice nurse Stella, who tended him when he lost a leg.) There are the usual birthings and deaths, accidents and galas, family feasts and hard times, walkings-out and a roll or two on the greensward. . . plus whiffs of larger matters like strikes and politics--but only whiffs. Warming, reliable period domestic clutter, then, with a few calamitous extras.