The Coles have lived in Middlemere, an isolated tenant farm, for half a century. When, in 1942, the family are threatened with eviction, Martha Cole and her small son, Jem, flee the house, while Martha's husband, Sam, and their eight-year-old daughter, Romy, barricade themselves inside Middlemere. When Sam brandishes a shotgun, the police are called in, and Romy sees her father shot dead. Years later, Martha Cole has remarried and she and her family are living in much-reduced circumstances. Romy, now almost nineteen, is quick, clever and single-minded. She has never forgotten - or forgiven - the violence and injustice of the Coles' eviction, and schemes to restore the family fortunes.