Set in mid-1950's England, this story tells of the wealthy, socially upwardly-progressive Ratcliffe family. Their youngest daughter, seventeen year old Vanessa, feels alienated from her selfish parents, who are more interested in their eldest daughter's upcoming marriage into one of their town's old families. An old friend of the family, who is himself trapped in a loveless marriage, makes love to Vanessa one night, and she becomes pregnant, but won't reveal who the father is. Her parents are sure it is an employee of the Ratcliffe's, Angus Cotton, who hotly denies this and quits his job to go and start his own business. Vanessa ends up leaving home, and when Angus hears of the poor conditions she's living in in a Newcastle skid-row neighbourhood, he offers to marry her and she accepts.