Polly Perkins and her older brother Sid have never really liked each other and when, in a fit of spite, he flicks a fishbone at her and accidentally blinds her in one eye, it seems to Polly that he has blighted her entire future. But life carries on in 1930s Rotherhithe and Polly, like the other tenants of Penn's Place, is soon caught up in its daily struggles: battling to keep treasured possessions from being sold at the pawn shop, to hold her own in the rows which rage through her warring family, and to find herself a job. In the latter she succeeds and, having started as a tea girl at Bloom's Fashions, to her delight is offered a job in the office. There her friendship with the prosperous Bloom family grows, in particular with Sarah and her handsome brother David, whose lifestyle in Putney is so different from her own.
Meanwhile in Rotherhithe Polly finds herself being courted ever more insistently by Ron, Sid's best friend and, Polly sometimes suspects, his partner in crime. When in frustration he points out that, disfigured by her accident, Polly is lucky to get any suitors at all, she decides, reluctantly, to accept his proposal of marriage. But, as the country finds itself in the grip of war, it becomes clear that Sid - and her husband Ron - have jeopardised Polly's future once more.