In the New Year of 1936, Gwen Purdy, aged 21, leaves her home to become a schoolteacher in a poor area of Birmingham. Her parents are horrified, but her fiancé, recently ordained in the Church of England, supports the idea. Her early weeks in Birmingham come as an eye-opener: at the school she faces a class of 52 children, some of whose homes are among Birmingham's poorest. One of the teachers, the elderly Miss Drysdale, becomes an inspiration, and Gwen begins to understand the appalling hardships endured by the children as she is drawn into their lives. Little Lucy Fernandez is a "cripple" and an epileptic. Through her, Gwen meets Daniel Fernandez, the elder brother in a fatherless household. The family has roots in Wales' small Spanish community, and Daniel is a young man as passionate and fierce in his emotions as in his social conscience. Gwen falls in love, and is soon embroiled in his battle to win rights for the working classes. As the Brigades are mobilized to fight the Spanish Civil War, Gwen has to face the fact that Daniel has secrets in his past that she would rather not face up to.
© Annie Murray; (P) Macmillan Publishers Ltd