New Zealand, 1921. Bright, feisty, and pretty, 16-year-old Lottie O’Brien lives with her troubled family in an impoverished part of Wellington. Life at home is hard for Lottie, her younger sister Bella and brother Jack – their father has returned from the war a mental and physical invalid, for whom their mother has neither sympathy nor affection. Ambitious Lottie dreams of a better life and is befriended by her class teacher, Madeleine Carson, who introduces Lottie to her affluent family.
When Eleanor sets off for lunch at a seaside pub one glorious September day, she has no idea that her world is about to be turned upside down. Divorced, and newly retired from a glamorous career in London, she is enthusiastic about the prospect of making a fresh start and enjoying gentler pace of life in the country. Then a near-fatal car crash changes everything.
Sasha, the attractive inspiring tutor of a watercolour evening class, is tired of a sterile relationship. Among her students is Caroline, a soldier’s wife desperately anxious about her. Alice, the oldest of the group, has unexpectedly found a new life and forms a deep friendship with Moira, recently widowed, who is racked with worry about her daughter Vanessa. Roger is looking for new love, and Pauline is afraid of being left on the shelf.