This is the interwoven story of a few generations of a family. One part of the story takes place during the second world war, and the other is contemporaneous. In the first part, the action flips between a grammar school for young ladies and a ship that is part of the Atlantic Convoy bringing supplies to Britain during the war. The second part concerns a woman and her seriously ill daughter, the mother has been tested and is waiting to see if she can give her daughter a kidney and considering, if she can, weather or not she will.
The war parts of the story are the most compelling part of the narrative for me, in this section she explores changing roles of women and what it is to be a whole woman in an age when having it all was certainly not a consideration and where having just a little bit was the very best that you could possibly hope for. Ideas of sacrifice, honor and duty are explored in the way that they get explored in novels set in this era, what makes it better than most is the clarity given to the women’s voices and how when inhabiting girls on the verge of womanhood, Bakewell does not patronize or make slight their feelings.
The part of the novel set now is weaker. There are some interesting moments where she explores the way in which we take our mothers for granted and display an astounding lack of imagination when it comes to what their lives might have been before we were born. However it doesn’t quite cohere as well as the wartime story and how the two sections meet in the middle is not entirely believable.