Gorton, Manchester. 1930. Greyhound racing at Belle Vue, the buses going up and down Hyde Road, the siren of Peacock's foundry going off every night at six.
This is Bessie and Sam Holloway's place, home for Nell and little brother Bobby and older step-child Violet.
Precious visits from Dad's sister Benny, a Queen of the music hall trailing clouds of glory and whisky, provide infrequent brushes with glamour. 'Alright for some,' grunts Bessie. Nell grows up to work in a factory and there, from the tailgate of a truck in the yard, she first hears fellow factory worker Harry Caplin play trombone break on the old jazz classic, Clarinet Marmalade.
Harry's talent will take him far and introduce him to such jazz legends as Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden; but not as far as poor feckless Bobby, who finds himself fighting in the jungles of Malaya.
Spanning the twentieth century, this is a poignant story about a brother and a sister and three generations of a northern working-class family.