This is a colorful and dramatic story for youth about the life of John Henry Newman, famous British priest, preacher and pastor. To the Birmingham of 1849 comes Emmeline Erle, with her mother, and they are plunged from the sun of the Continent into a city of smoke and grime. The town is one of great contrasts; progress and poverty, industrial expansion and murky slums, new villas and filthy streets go side by side. Dark and light battle in the minds of its people too, principles of freedom and tolerance struggling with ignorance and prejudice, deep doubt of religious truth coexisting with fanaticism.
Emmeline quickly makes friends – Lizzie, the pathetic, hardworking skivvy; the doctor's family; Daniel, the lonely schoolboy next-door; her rather prim schoolfellows and the warm-hearted boatmen on the cut. The most important person in the town, for both Emmeline and Daniel, however, is Fr. John Henry Newman, who is running a disused gin-palace as a chapel in one of the worst areas, attempting to bring help to the poor factory workers and the light of truth to citizens blinded by suspicion and bigotry. They learn to know and love this great man, and with him experience the anxieties of the cholera outbreak and the dangers of the 'No-Popery' riots.
Caught up in one excitement or trouble after another, Daniel and Emmeline both finally arrive at happier times, while the walls of Newman's new church, a symbol of light in a dark town, rise into the foggy Birmingham sky.
The panorama of Victorian England is brilliantly unfolded here – Birmingham, Oxford, Prince Albert opening a new railway, theatres, factories, The Crystal Palace. But above all, this book portrays in a remarkable and memorable way the character and thought of Blessed John Henry Newman.