When Arthur Clennam returns to England after many years abroad, he takes a kindly interest in Amy Dorrit, his mother's seamstress, and in the affairs of Amy's father, William Dorrit, a man of shabby grandeur, long imprisoned for debt in the Marshalsea prison. Arthur's attempts to help the Dorrits reveal how the dark shadow of the prison stretches far beyond its walls, affecting the lives of many - from the reluctant rent-collector of Bleeding Yard, Mr Pancks, the garrulous and the lovelorn Flora Finching, Merdle, an unscrupulous financier - to the bureaucratic Barnacles in the Circumlocution Office. Just as Arthur discovers that is possible to climb to the very top in London society, so he comes to realise it is equally possible to slip down again. Could the only chance of escape lie in unravelling the mystery of Arthur's own family's murky past? And if he does where will it leave him, Amy and her father?