Born at the time of Waterloo in the wild country of Shropshire, Prudence Sarn is a wild, passionate girl, cursed with a hare lip -- her 'precious bane'. Cursed for it, too, by the superstitious people amongst whom she lives. Prue loves two things: the remote countryside of her birth and, hopelessly, Kester Woodseaves, the weaver. The tale of how Woodseaves gradually discerns Prue's true beauty is set against the tragic drama of Prue's brother, Gideon, a driven man who is out of harmony with the natural world.
Mary Webb (1881-1927), poet, mystic and lover of nature, spent most of her life in Shropshire, which features in all of her novels. Admiring contemporaries described Webb as a 'strange genius' and 'one of the best living writers'. After a life of illness and near-poverty, Mary Webb died in Hampstead.