At the beginning of World War II, twelve-year-old Nora Lynch is one of thousands of London children sent away to the safety of the English countryside. Her surrogate family, Reverend and Mrs. Rivers and their daughter, Grace, are like no one she has ever met, offering shelter, affection, and the sister she never had.
When war photographer Jo returns from her latest assignment in Afghanistan and moves into the Brighton flat she's just inherited, she hopes to restore equilibrium to her chaotic life. But images and events of her recent past and the reading of her great-grandmother Elizabeth's diary haunt her night and day, forcing Jo to come to terms with demons she thought she could leave behind.
During the long hot summer of 1976, a brilliant young Cambridge mathematician arrives in a remote village in the Lake District and takes on a job as a farm labourer. Painfully awkward and shy, Spencer Little is viewed with suspicion by the community and his only real friendship is with scruffy, clever 10-year-old Alice. When he saves Alice from a wild-fire, the locals at last begin to accept him, but as he is drawn deeper into their lives, he also becomes aware of their secrets - and of the difficulty of keeping his own.
Nora is just 12 when the war breaks out and she joins trainloads of evacuees leaving London's East End for the safety of rural Kent. Her surrogate family,the Rivers,are unline anyone she has ever met and she soon comes to lover her new life with them,in particular with their daughter Grace. The two become as close as sisters,although, to Nora's confusion,even this is not quite as close as she would like. What happens next is a secret that wil eat away at Nora for the rest of her life.