Helen, thirty-two, and Vivian, twenty-eight, take smoking breaks on a fire escape outside their office. Helen lives with Julia, a writer, who has a fascinating life filled with TV appearances and a secret past. The women exchange confidences but Helen can't reveal that she is in love with Julia. Vivian also has a dark history that she doesn't talk about. Her younger brother, Duncan, was in some sort of trouble and now lives with an elderly man he calls Uncle.
Part Two of the novle shifts backward to 1944; London under the siege of the V-8 rockets. Vivian is having an affiar with Reggie, a married soldier. She becomes pregnant and Reggie fixes her up with a dentist to have an abortion.The procedure is described in horrendous detail. Meanwhile, Helen and Kay are having an affair, but Helen is attracted to the mercurial Julia who was once in love with Kay.
Part Three takes place in 1941 in London during the Blitz. Duncan and his classmate decide to kill themselves.
This report prepared by Betty-Jeanne Korson