Josh and Miriam Retallick and their grandson Ben seem almost part of the wild and rugged Cornish landscape of 1913. Yet a revolutionary spirit of change is sweeping across the country - and the whole of Europe - with terrifying haste.
Even before the outbreak of the Great War, with strike action compromising his position in the community and threatening the future of the China clay industry, Ben is unsettled by the presence of his cousin Emma Cotton. Inspired by the blossoming suffragette movement, it is a cause which takes her to London and a meeting with ardent campaigner Tessa Wren. As Emma and Tessa are plunged into the turmoil of driving ambulances to the front line in France, Ben's wife, Lily, resigned to dying in a Swiss clinic, pushes her husband towards this courageous new woman . . .