The Davies family is as dysfunctional as they come. When Frank marries a younger woman, Susan, his 10-year-old daughter, Louise, feels pushed out, and even more so when baby Karen arrives. Now, years later, with her father gone, Louise feels even more the odd one out. Obsessed with finding her birth mother, she distances herself from her family and spitefully makes trouble for Karen whenever the opportunity arises.
The outbreak of war brings mixed feelings for Judy Truman and it is a relief to get away from the East End and her disastrous marriage. With her two small daughters, she is evacuated to Norfolk, and billeted on kindly Maggie and Bill Hurst. The children flourish and Judy's confidence returns. But when husband Sid comes home on leave, his violent jealousy frightens Judy and shocks Maggie and Bill. A meeting with a young airman, Pete Gresham, teaches her that men can be gentle and loving. She falls in love but living her life with Pete seems an impossible dream.
Frances, Sophie and Katie meet again at a school reunion and discover how their lives have changed. Each builds an idealised picture of her life. They resolve to keep in touch, but gradually each of them discovers that her friends’ wonderful lives are far from perfect. Kate is working in a small boutique and still struggling for success; Fran’s marriage to a controlling man is deeply unhappy, and Sophie is on the point of bankruptcy and divorce.
For Elaine, her first lvoe was all consuming, but when Chris, the love of her life, inherited a large sum of money everything changed. With the help of her friend, Mary, Elaine slowly began to forge a new life and fell in love again, with Ian. When an expected face from the past returns to haunt her she is forced to question the future for which she has worked so hard. Can life ever be the same again for Elaine and the people she loves? And, more importantly, has she ever really known the true meaning of love?
Laura Nightingale has a happy home life but her parents are unsympathetic of her ambition to become an actress. When war comes, she seizes her chance and joins up with ENSA. On the rebound from the devastating news that her childhood sweetheart is “missing believed killed” in action, she begins a disastrous affair with Max Higham, the director of her troupe. When she discovers she's pregnant, Max rejects her and she is forced to leave ENSA, but she knows she cannot return home in disgrace.
Ever since Juliet's mother abandoned her husband and child in mysterious circumstances, Juliet has felt responsible for her actor father. Once headed for stardom, Marcus is now a shadow of his former self and when Juliet finds him in a run-down London flat, he is mired in debt and constantly drunk. Juliet brings Marcus to live with her by the seaside as she tries to rebuild his shattered confidence one step at a time. Things even seem to be looking up when Marcus is offered theatre work...
Kathy Brady is evacuated during World War II and separated from her two stepbrothers and mother. She lives on Magpie Farm with the Spicer family and falls in love with Chris. However, Kathy is embarrassed about her background and invents a much grander life than she actually had. She eventually hears that her mother has been killed and that she must return to live with her stepbrothers. Kathy gets caught up in their money laundering but she eventually manages to escape back to Magpie farm.
Resentful that her mother cannot afford to send her to art school, and unable to hold down a steady job, Danielle is dissatisfied with her lot. So when she discovers that her mother gave birth to her as a surrogate child for a wealthy couple, but couldn't bear to part with her, she seizes the opportunity to search for the parents she should have had.
Hazel, Lillian and Ruby might never have become friends if it hadn't been for the war. Hazel is a young teacher with a guilty secret and Lillian is sole carer to her domineering invalid mother. Ruby is an evacuee waif from the East End of London, abandoned by her feckless mother and left to the mercies of an uncaring and resentful foster family. The three find pleasure and support in one another's friendship.