Malaya, 1890 ... in the tin-mining camps of Perak's Kinta Valley, only the strongest and bravest survive ... and the strongest and bravest of them all is Aisha, the beautiful solitary dulang washer who labours to support two families.
Fook Sin, the mine's treacherous, thieving proprietor, sees Aisha as his ultimate prize: the most desirable object he can add to his secret hoard of treasures.
Hun Yee, an ambitous young Hakka Chinese miner, shakes off the opium addiction that has insulated him from the harshness of his daily struggle and strives to win Aisha's approval by starting a mine of his own.
But for Donald Redfern, overseer and only European in the camp, Aisha comes to represent something even more important. The contact she offers in the language lessons she gives him, and the small gestures of compassion she shows to the isolated, homesick man, fuel his dangerous obsession.
Meanwhile, Aisha herself is harbouring a secret. When events at the mine move towards their shocking conclusion, she is forced to re-examine her life. Confronted with the love of a man prepared to turn his back on his country for her, will she finally seize her chance at happiness?