A noisy tale of star-crossed lovers in a grungy, early-20th-century Lancashire mill town--neo-Cookson in the pugnacious poverty and the domestic fireworks, but featuring a rather milder heroine than Cookson's usual. Lively Maggie Craig loses her mother and one brother to diphtheria; her two other brothers go off to the Boer war. So she alone tends her defeated, grieving, prematurely senile Da. Maggie, however, is determined to make a go: working in the mill, finding a friend in sharp-tongued, large-hearted Clara, and falling for Joe Barton--who has family troubles of his own (a prostitute mum) and becomes Maggie's lover after her father's death. They intend to marry, of course. But then Joe must be on the run--having stolen money to finance sister Belle's maid uniforms. And everyone in the village is horrid to pregnant Maggie--except Clara and kind, fat Kit Carmichael, who lives with his ill, tyrannical mother. Thus, after a miscarriage and her brothers' deaths, Maggie turns to elephantine Kit; and though Mother Carmichael nearly manages to drive Maggie bonkers, Kit roars Mother into the loonybin and marries our heroine. Happy ending? No, not quite--because Kit dislikes sex. So, though they manage to produce daughter Rose, Maggie is frustrated (while Kit secretly destroys Joe's letters). Furthermore, Rose is a pill--till she grows up and becomes pregnant during WW I by an anonymous ""John,"" bringing mum and daughter close before Rose dies in childbirth. And guess who's languishing in the same hospital? Joe, of course--so Maggie must make a Big Choice. For the fans: summat between Cooksons.