Davie Armstrong watches as his master, Angus McBain, publicly thrashes young Molly Geary for refusing to name the man who had made her pregnant. And yet, only an hour later, Davie sees the two of them alone in the malthouse, and learns that the child is McBain's. In a whirl of disbelieving rage, he overhears them plotting to let him, Davie, take the blame and marry Molly. Meanwhile, the master's wife is also pregnant. And a few months later the birth of the McBain's son Amos unleashes violence and tragedy at the farm. Born with no legs and emotionally crippled, Amos will learn to wield power of frightening intensity over everyone around him.
Catherine Cookson was born in Tyne Dock, the illegitimate daughter of a poverty-stricken woman, Kate, whom she believed to be her older sister. She began work in service but eventually moved south to Hastings, where she met and married Tom Cookson, a local grammar-school master. Although she was originally acclaimed as a regional writer - her novel The Round Tower won the Winifred Holtby Award for the best regional novel of 1968 - her readership quickly spread throughout the world, and her many bestselling novels established her as one of the most popular of contemporary women novelists. After receiving an OBE in 1985, Catherine Cookson was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1993. She was appointed an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford, in 1997. For many years she lived near Newcastle upon Tyne. She died shortly before her ninety-second birthday, in June 1998.