The downtrodden Emily lives at home with her tyrannical widowed father, the Reverend Arthur Boyce, parson of St Cleer, Cornwall, and his housekeeper, Maude Rowe. Her sister Caroline was lucky enough to get married in time to escape from such an existence. When Emily falls in love with Sam Hooper, a copper miner on Bodmin Moor, her father says he is not good enough for her and ensures that Sam goes on the next ship to Australia, looking for a better life there.
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When Arthur's sudden death releases Emily at last from the prospect of a lifetime of drudgery, she and her friend Margaret Minns and the latter's two small sons decide to go to Australia. Their paths cross with various characters, including Stefan Mintoff, an ambitious, untrustworthy politician; Ruth Askew, a prostitute; Abe Gundry, a successful gold prospector whose wife and child are dead and he has nobody to leave his fortune to; and Charlie Minns, Margaret's disreputable long-lost husband. Emily is sure they will help her find Sam, and that it is only a matter of time. When she learns that he is married to a girl he met on the ship out, she throws herself into good works, saving fallen women – and then discovers that he is not married after all.
The review of this Book prepared by John Van der Kiste