In the hills of Dartmoor a dam bursts.
The rushing wall of water drowns the valley that the Victorians had drained a century previously, recreating it as a sea estuary. The water drowns farmland, creates an island from a farmstead on a bluff, but destroys a nearby home, washing away a boy, a girl and their parents. The girl is saved by the father and son now marooned on their island, Loft Island; the others are dead.
The Lofts take Mary in. They have to encounter the injustices of the time, the 1950s, and attitudes which are foreign to modern life. They find support and friends, as well as both sympathetic and unsympathetic officialdom. They endure the inquest and the funerals, each of which is made traumatic by the unwanted attentions of a relative of the girl who believes she should become her guardian.
The two youngsters, hardly out of childhood, naturally support each other. Gradually their life-long friendship develops, in total innocence and without either realising it.
Around them, the farm can no longer provide a living. Poverty rears its head.
And then the girl, Mary, disappears without trace. Stephen’s father tries to provide an income through smuggling but is arrested. Stephen is distraught about the loss of both Henry, his father and Mary, his friend. But is there an ally in a local woman?