Born in Sunderland's filthy, crime-ridden East End, Pearl Croft's childhood is desperately troubled.
When her violent, drunken father is killed in a fight and Pearl's elder brothers are sent to prison, she is left to care for her baby brothers. Then Pearl's mother brings a 'client' to the house who has a penchant for little girls.
Terrified and hurt, Pearl runs away from home and is found, feverish and near death, by Romany gypsies. But this is far from the end of her struggles. Years pass and as Pearl reaches womanhood she wonders if she will ever find happiness?