Frances "Fanny" Price, at age 10, is sent from her overburdened family home to live with her uncle and aunt in the country in Northamptonshire. It is a jolting change, from the elder sister of many, to the youngest at the estate of Sir Thomas Bertram, husband of her mother's older sister. Her aunt is kind but her uncle frightens her with his authoritative demeanor. Fanny's mother has another sister, Mrs. Norris, who doesn't like and mistreats Fanny. The story follows Fanny's development from troubling adaptation in the wealthy household, through turbulent adolescence, to marriage.