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The story starts in the year 1906 when Sarah Birkett is eleven years old. The first chapter introduces the extended family, and sees the valley in the English Lake District, from her eyes. She leaves school and starts work at the local Post Office, which includes delivering telegrams to the valley.
Seven years later she meets Evan Evans, a Welsh quarryman just arrived in the valley to manage the local quarry, and is very attracted to him. Everyone worried about Sarah's mother, who is very ill, she later dies. War looms. Evan and Sarah get together, but with her mother dying they have to wait. Evan, her brother John and friend Dan, volunteer for the Army, and Sarah and Evan go to Gretna Green to get married, before the men have to leave. Those working at the Gunpowder Works are exempt.
There is an explosion at the Gunpowder Works and one man is killed, a friend of Birkett family, and others injured. Matthew is blamed by his brother Robbie, for the explosion, and they have blazing argument which also breaks up Robbie and Jess, the girl he loves.
The story takes us through the first World War, Sarah's husband is injured with shrapnel near his heart, her brother is listed as "missing." Sarah's Dad is injured at the quarries and has to have his lower leg amputated. He manages fine and lives with the grandparents, who spend their life trying to get the better of each other, quite amusingly, and sometimes with benefit to the whole valley.
A character dies, but only after a confession, which gradually sorts out the problems between the brothers, who have been at loggerheads for years.
The story takes in local events, explains village life, the families increase, and the storyends/pauses in 1922.