Liverpool, 1934. Hester Lowe agrees to act as governess to spoilt, self-willed, little Lonnie Hetherington-Smith when they leave India to live with Lonnie's elderly aunt in Shaw Street, Liverpool. Hester speedily realises that her new employer dislikes her niece and means to make life uncomfortable for both of them.
Things improve a little when they meet the poor, but happy, Bailey family who live in a court off Heyworth Street. Hester likes Dick Bailey very much, but her employer does not permit 'followers', whilst Lonnie and young Ben Bailey are deadly enemies.
Then, the regime in Shaw Street changes and Hester is forced to leave the comforts of a middle-class household to make her own way in what is, to her, a strange country...