After the First World war, two final stragglers return to North East Scotland to pick up their old lives, Mary Cowie, once a 'gutter quine' or fish gutter, who served with the Elsie Inglis Scottish Women Hospitals field units, and Neil Findlay once the best fishing boat skipper in Buckie, now a shell-shocked wreck. They hope the old life will cure them, but find they have changed too much to settle down again. This is a story of a fishing community following the herring shoals around the coast in their steam drifters, and is rich in local characters like Aggie the young war widow, Jonathan the local doctor, Eric the skipper who retired too soon to make way for his sons., The shadow of the war refuses to go away for any of these but, with change, comes opportunity. Mary and Neil find their tribal and personal loyalties tested to the full as the herring fishing industry struggles to recover.
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