For Rose Lucas, a spirited, intelligent girl born into a large family in the slums of pre-war Birmingham, life is hard. But through her friendship with Diana, daughter of a vicar from middle-class Moseley, she learns to aspire to a different and better existence. But life seldom follows dreams, and after losing a love she has fought hard for, and after travelling in Italy, she returns to Birmingham with her hopes shattered. But Rose's powerful spirit will not be defeated.
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Anna Craven grew up captivated by stories of her mother's childhood in Birmingham and of Kate's friend, Olivia. Theirs was a magical friendship and Anna always regretted that, with Olivia's tragic death during the war, she would never meet the woman her mother loved so deeply. But when Kate dies, she leaves her daughter one final story: the whole truth of her life with Olivia Kemp. Anna is shocked to discover how little she really knew about the mother with whom she once felt so close.
August 1939. Genie Watkins, a Birmingham kid, would love to have a proper happy family like her Italian friend, Teresa. But Genie hasn't reckoned with the outbreak of war, her already rocky family being split up and the strangely liberating effect it all has on her mother.... Under Birmingham skies darkened by blackout, Genie shares her fears and hopes with Teresa, keeps her spirits up with her nan and glamorous auntie Lil, and tries to hold her family together. And amid it all, she discovers love....