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It is 1946, and the eve of the harshest winter for a hundred years.
Servicemen are pouring home from the war to a Britain beset by stringent shortages and a desperate housing crisis. Anxieties are heightened by the unexpected arrival of the soldiers of the Second Polish Corps, whose refusal to go back to Poland is regarded with impatience and suspicion.
As anti-Polish propaganda reaches its height, newly demobbed Billy Greer reluctantly agrees to take on a young Polish veteran named Wladyslaw Malinowski as a labourer on his uncle's withy farm in the heart of the Somerset wetlands.
Stella, the local schoolteacher, has been waiting for the return of Lyndon Hanley, a hero of the Burma Campaign, but increasingly finds herself drawn to the beguiling Wladyslaw.
As the country is brought to its knees by blizzards and hardships, the tensions of post-war life lead to mistrust, accusation and ultimately death.