Growing up in extreme poverty in London, Pearl thinks life can get no worse. But when her parents discover there’s yet another baby on the way, they have to tighten the belt even further. Pearl’s mother decides to send her and her younger sister Eliza to the workhouse, where they are forced into a new life of hardship and struggle.
Pearl’s hopes are raised when the workhouse offers the sisters a new life in Canada and they board an orphan ship transporting unwanted children across the seas. Pearl hopes their luck has finally changed when she and Eliza are hired by the kindly Mrs Forbes to work in her grand house together. But when Pearl meets their mistress’s bullying son Monty he reveals he will stop at nothing to make her life a misery.