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Summary

For 12-year-old Mary Ann Clark, life has always been tough. The pretty daughter of a wife-beating drunk, it is no surprise that she has grown up afraid of her own shadow - that is, until "Battling Bessie Ruddick" takes the young girl under her wing and into the heart of her bustling family.

Growing into an attractive young woman, Mary Ann yearns to be loved, and when her affection for Bessie's son, Dan, is finally returned she becomes a skipper's wife. But the arduous life aboard ship is clearly not for her, and only the arrival of a daughter, Lizzie, seems to hold the marriage together. Yet, tragically, the family is torn apart when Mary Ann is seduced by the promise of a happier life.

Although bewildered by her mother's disappearance, it is now up to Lizzie to help her father. For she, unlike Mary Ann, has inherited Dan's love of the river. But then, disturbingly, her life starts to follow the same pattern as her mother's.

The strength and resilience of her characters shine through in Margaret Dickinson's new Lincolnshire saga, a richly absorbing tale of the lives and loves of the river folk.

© Margaret Dickinson; (P) Macmillan Publishers Ltd

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