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A superb wartime drama based on a bestselling novel

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Written by : published Monday 18th July 2011

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Set against the backdrop of wartime England during the 1940s, this superb drama tells the stories of four people whose lives become linked during the Blitz. Based on the best selling novel by Sarah Waters, this fantastic adaptation features love, liberation and loss.

The drama begins in 1947 and goes back in time to 1941, providing intriguing insights into how the characters ended up in the situations which they know find themselves in. We are introduced to four characters: Kay, Helen, Viv and Duncan.

In 1947, Kay is seen wondering the streets of London. It is evident that she is haunted by a traumatic event from her past. She is sad and appears to be depressed, yet we do not know the reason for her despair. We are then introduced to the character of Viv. She is having an affair with a married man. Later on we learn that she began her affair with him in 1941. Viv is also suffering as she feels guilt and regret about her affair. Viv pretends to be married by wearing a wedding ring. A chance meeting between Kay and Viv reveals that Kay gave Viv a ring, but we do not know the reason why. At the end of the first part Viv is seen ignoring a telephone call from her lover. It is clear that she is ending the affair.

The next character is Duncan, he is Viv’s younger brother and we learn that he is also in turmoil.  Duncan bumps into an old friend called Robert, yet he is unhappy about seeing him. It is revealed that they both shared a cell together. Robert is concerned about Duncan, but he Duncan runs away from his friend. Duncan introduces Robert to his sister and there is an instant chemistry between Robert and Viv.

Duncan and Robert

Helen is the final character. She is running a marriage bureau with Julia and we discover that they are in a lesbian relationship together. At the end of the first part Julia asks Helen to leave the home which they share together.

The first part raises a number of questions. Why are all the characters suffering emotional turmoil? What happened in their lives? As the first part draws to a close, you are intrigued to know more about the character’s lives.

The next part of the drama goes back in time to 1944. We learn that Kay was part of a group of female ambulance drivers. Her duties involved her attending the sights of bombings during the Blitz. Kay and her companions faced unimaginable danger night after night, collecting dead bodies and bringing them to the morgue. On one particular night Kay attends a street which has been bombed. Women are seen screaming for their children and Kay witnessed immense pain and suffering and she is seen carrying a dead body. The night has an effect on Kay and she is left incredibly shaken. The next day she cuts her hair and it is clear that her job is affecting her mental state.

In this part it is revealed that Viv is having an affair with a soldier. However she soon falls pregnant with his child. She desperately wants to lose the baby and so she attempts to have a miscarriage, by throwing herself down the stairs. Her attempts fail and she resorts to having an illegal abortion. Her lover accompanies her to the clinic. Afterwards Viv begins to bleed heavily and she falls ill. Her lover calls for an ambulance and he leaves before they arrived. He is scared that his affair will be revealed and it is clear that he doesn’t truly love Viv. Kay arrives in the ambulance and she is seen comforting an emotional Viv to the hospital. Viv cries out for lover and she soon realises that he has left her. She then cries in dispair because she is aware that that she could be arrested for having an illegal abortion. Kay gives Viv her ring, in order for Viv to claim that her husband is away at war and she is having a miscarriage.

Duncan is visited by his father and sister Viv in prison. Yet we still do not know the reason why Duncan is in prison. His sister supports him but his father is ashamed of him. Duncan shares a cell with a man called Robert. He soon develops feelings for Robert and we learn that Duncan is gay. However it is evident that Robert does not feel the same way as Duncan.

We learn in this part of the drama that Kay and Helen were in a relationship together. We also learn that Kay was once in a relationship with Julia. Kay introduces Helen to Julia and the two women start to bond. It is clear that Kay loves Helen very deeply. One night Kay hears the devastating news that her street has been bombed. She rushes to the scene to find a piece of Helen’s clothing buried among the ruins. Kay breaks down in tears as she believes that her beloved Helen is dead. Helen is seen walking up to Kay, however Kay’s happiness is short lived as she sees Julia lurking in the shadows. She realises that Helen has been with Julia and that they have been having an affair.

The drama continues further back in time to 1941. Viv is seen on a train where she bumps into a tall, dark and handsome soldier.  Here begins her love affair which will continue for another six years.

In this part we learn why Duncan was put in prison. Duncan is having a relationship with his male neighbour. Both have been called up to war but they do not want to be apart from each other. They therefore decided to commit suicide however it is clear that Duncan has doubts. His boyfriend kills himself by slitting his throat. Duncan is left shocked and shaken. The police arrive to find the body of the neighbour amongst a pool of blood. Duncan is arrested for assisted suicide.

In 1941, Kay and Julia are in a lesbian relationship. Julia loves Kay deeply and she cares for her. One night Kay is called to the scene of a bombing. Kay discovers Helen buried underneath debris and she saves her life. Here begins Kay’s and Helen’s relationship.

The final part of the drama returns to 1947. In order for each character to move on with their lives, they must each make peace with their past. Duncan decides to see his friend Robert in order to tell him how he truly feels. On arrival at the place where he is staying, Duncan sees Robert dancing with his sister Viv. Duncan realises that his former cell mate does not feel the same way. Duncan therefore boards a train and he enters a cabin where another gentleman is sitting. As the two men exchange glances it is clear that there is an instant attraction between them. Duncan has finally found someone who feels the same way as himself. As Viv dances with Robert, it appears that she has also found happiness. She has found someone who truly loves her.

Helen is seen leaving the home of Julia. Helen is faced with the devastating truth that Julia never truly loved her. She finally realises that Helen used her in order to seek revenge against Kay. As she leaves the house, Helen realises that she made a mistake by leaving Kay.

In the final scene, Kay finally says goodbye to her relationship with Helen by throwing a piece of Helen’s clothing into the fire. As the clothing burns, it appears that Kay is finally able to move on with her life.

This superb adaptation is beautifully made and the acting is exceptional. As the drama draws to a close, you can’t help but feel relieved that each character has finally found their own individual peace.

About the author Stacey McEvoy

Stacey McEvoy

My name is Stacey McEvoy and I am currently studying Journalism and Media at the University of Huddersfield. I love writing and it has always been a great passion of mine. I hope to be a journalist, ideally writing for a newspaper or a magazine.

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