So many things have happened to our characters!!!
The day Orla gives birth to her daughter Lulu, Alice goes to find her husband, and she gets the shock of her life. A woman directs her to the house where John and Clare live, and Alice knocks to find out her husband has a double life. Not only does he have another woman, but two children and one on the way. This is the last time Alice sees John in years, but she doesn’t tell anybody. She simply tells her children that her father isn’t returning, but since he has been an absent father most of the time, none of the girls is too upset, and Cormac tries to call him, but John refuses to see him.
It is the night Alice discovers her husband’s duplicity that she lets someone else in her life. She finds refuge in her salon, and when Neil comes, she finds her upset. They talk, and he confesses that his life hasn’t been easy. He got married young to Barbara and then he joined the army. When he was in England on leave, he usually invited friends over, and when some of his army fellows went back home, he told them to visit his wife. It was at a party when everybody was drunk that he learnt that his wife had cheated on him with whomever came to visit her. She had a reputation among his fellow servicemen. So he left Barbara after the war ended, and decided to train as a teacher. Alice tells him what she had learnt about John, and that night they become lovers. Their love story last for years without anybody being any the wiser. I knew this would end up causing problems, and it would come from Fion.
Fionnuala trains as a hairdresser, and when her mother opens a second salon, she appoints her manageress. Yet, shortly afterwards Alice learns that her daughter is not up to the job. The clientele dwindles more and more, and when one of her hairdressers wants to resign, Alice learns the truth. Fionnuala is unable to treat her staff and clients with the right respect; she is short and often rude. Alice then decides to talk to Fion, and to the girl’s dismay she is stripped of her position and has to return to the old hairdresser’s in the same position. Fionnuala is quite low, and when Alice tells Neil about it, he tells her he could invite her to a dance. Alice is not sure about it because she knows that Fion has always had a crush on Neil. However, Neil thinks he can come up with an excuse so that Fion doesn’t get ideas. Yet, his excuse is not enough, and Alice realizes this is a mistake. Fion is excited, going on a diet and buying a new dress for the occasion. However, she never gets to go to the dance as she discovers her mother and Neil together in bed. So she makes a decision. She is going to leave. She feels quite low and thinks nobody likes her.
Fion travels to London, using her own saving and some money Mr Flynn lends her. At first she thinks she will only stay in the capital one day, but then she keeps putting off her departure. In the bed and breakfast she meets Elsa, a girl she befriends. It is thanks to Elsa that she finds digs in London and then she also gets a job in a factory. Elsa also introduces her to her grandmother and her father, who came sick from the war. Colin, Elsa’s father, and Fion hit it off, and we learn that shortly afterwards they get married and have children. Yet, the man dies as he was already sick. It is years later when Fion finally decides to return to Liverpool. Her husband is dead, Ruby, his mother, has just passed away, and Elsa has married and moved to Germany. So when she learns that after dying, Flynn has left her his house, she finally travels to Liverpool with her two young children and see her family for the first time in years.
Fion’s flit means the end of Neil and Alice’s affair. She thinks this was a sign and she shouldn’t have let things carry on for so long. She loves Neil, but her reputation is important to her, so she won’t divorce John to marry him. So Neil eventually leaves Liverpool, gets a divorce from Barbara, and settle in London. It is a pity that they had to part ways because they were great together. I wonder if later in the novel Neil might return to her.
As for Orla, in a few years she has four children. She is still reluctant to tell her husband she loves him even though she does. She is regretful for the grand life she thought she would be living. However, I think that in her own way she is happy.
Maeve is the sister we know less about. She has become a registered nurse and married a doctor Martin. They have no children as they are too wrapped up in their careers. I wonder if we will see more of Maeve because so far she has been just a shadow.
As for Cormac, he does very well for a while, even being accepted in Cambridge. It is on her twenty-first birthday that his life changes. Cora sneaks into the hotel where Alice has thrown a party to her son. The woman feels that life has cheated her once again. Maurice hasn’t turned out the son she wanted. He has been in jail for breaking into a newsagent, and when he was released, she threw him out. Now Maurice lives in the apartment above the hairdresser’s. When Cormac finds his aunt alone, Cora confesses the truth to him, about him being her son and her swapping the babies at the hospital. Cormac gets a terrible shock, realizing that he does look like Cora, who is a woman he despises. After that, he leaves university and becomes a hippy, driving around the country with a pop band he has joined and who nobody else knows. They drive around in a van, and there are two girls the three boys in the band share. However, Cormac likes Pol, but the girl doesn’t take him seriously as Cormac seems to be high constantly. It is when Cormac runs into his sister Fion that he finally tells someone about what Cora had told him on her twenty-first birthday. Fion doubts Cora’s story is true, but she assures Cormac that even if it were true, he is still her brother and Alice’s son. This seems to reassure him a bit. Shortly afterwards Pol discovers that she is pregnant, and even though the father of the baby could be any of the three men she has had sex with, Cormac steps forward and asks her to live with him and raise the baby together.
Cormac returns to Liverpool with Pol, and they settle in one of Fion’s rooms. Alice is glad that her son is back, but she finds quite confusing and disturbing when Pol tells her she won’t go to a doctor for a checkup and wants Cormac to deliver the baby himself. Alice is worried, but she won’t meddle in her child’s affairs.
As for John, things go from bad to worse for him. For a few years he is happy with Clare and their children. Yet, John convinces her she could have surgery for her hare lip, some new techniques he has read in the newspaper. Clare goes through surgery, and she becomes the pretty woman she is, and now she can actually speak properly. Clare changes with this physical transformation. She is not afraid of going out, and she even starts studying art. However, John relapses to his old ways when he was married to Alice, accusing Clare of cheating on him. His insecurities return as he is aware of his deformity and Clare’s beauty, and he thinks Clare will go with other men. He even hits her. Clare won’t put up with this situation much longer, so she saves up and decides to leave him. The day before she leaves, she goes to see Alice and asks her to check if John could be all right. Alice is outraged but admires the woman for doing what she should have done herself.
Alice sends her father to check on John, and even though Danny is reluctant to do so, he complies. John is upset, but he is fine. It is years after that when we see John again. Bill, his brother, is in the docks when he stumbles upon him. John is drunk as a lord and terribly thin. He takes him to his home where Cora looks after him. Cora is ecstatic because she has always been besotted with her brother-in-law, and she dreams of a life with him. When John recovers a little, he goes to see Alice for the first time, and he has the nerve to ask her to take him back. Naturally, Alice says no. John even reacts with hostility. What did he expect? He treated his family, Alice in particular, like rubbish, and he hopes to walk and be welcomes with open arms.
That night John drinks again, and returns to his brother’s house intoxicated. Cora decides to make her move, and he gets into his bed. The following day John doesn’t remember anything, but when he sees Cora naked in the bed, he decides to walk away. When he falls asleep in his office, he has a cigarette, and this is the end of John Lacey. The place burns down and he dies in the fire. Alice and her family are notified the night when Fion has returned and the three girls are together for the first time in years. Alice feels guilty because John has died the day after she turned her away, but Fionnuala shakes some sense into her mother, assuring her that she is not to blame herself. Alice and the girls go to the funeral, but there is little love lost between John and his family. The only one who seems upset is his brother Billy.
The book is delightful. Cora is a very real villain. As I thought, she is so obsessed to get one up on Alice that she tries to do everything to hurt her even if it means to become isolated and lonely. She is now estranged from the son she raised, and I think she deserves it. The way she treated Maurice was not right. We even learn that she is a murderer; she confessed to an intoxicated John that she had killed the two aunts who had raised her. What a terrible thing! I can understand that her background was lacking to say the least, but she is not the one to come from a depressed background, so it is more than her reaction to her upbringing what makes her be so nasty and wicked.