Adele Talbot is twelve when her younger and more favoured sister is tragically killed in a road accident in London's Kings Cross. This tips Rose, her already unstable mother over the edge and she attacks Adele. With Adele's mother carted off to a mental asylum for her dangerous behaviour and her father suddenly relinquishing any responsibility for her as his child, Adele has no choice but to take up residence in a children's home.
Life at the home becomes so cruel and horrifying for Adele that she is forced to run away and embarks on a mission to find her grandparents in the hope that they can finally provide her with the love and comfort of family life that she has never known. Yet when she does find her widowed grandmother Honour Harris, she discovers an embittered widow who deeply resents her daughter Rose but can't bring herself to turn her back to her granddaughter and so decides to let her stay.