The focus throughout is on the emotional lives of the characters, especially the women. As with the previous book, anyone who has read Howard's autobiography, Slipstream, will recognise that Louise is to a large extent a self-portrait. Her increasingly unhappy marriage mirrors closely that of its author. Louise's cousin Clary, with her ambition to become a writer, reflects another side of Howard's personality.
But this is much more than a disguised autobiography. There are frequent changes of viewpoint, as Howard takes us into the minds of a wide and varied range of people. She is able to enter convincingly into the thoughts and feelings of men as well as women and she spans a remarkably wide age range, from small children to the very old. Each is given her or his own voice, so that after each change of focus you know almost at once who is speaking, even before a name is mentioned.
Although quite a lot of the story takes place in London there is little sense of being under threat. The blitz finished some time ago and although we are told about the advent of the V1s ('doodlebugs') and V2s (rockets), no one seems unduly concerned for their personal safety. Howard's interest is less in the war as such than in the transformation it is producing in the characters' way of life.
Anyone who enjoyed the preceding volume won't be disappointed by this one.