One of the main events in the novel that changes the lives of many of its characters is the sinking of the Thetis. HMS Thetis was a submarine of the Royal Navy which served under two names. Under her first identity, HMS Thetis, she commenced sea trials on 4 March 1939. She sank during trials on 1 June 1939 with the loss of 99 lives.
Tommy O’Mara dies in the submarine as he is one of the men who built the Thetis. The place where the submarine was built is Birkenhead. Birkenhead is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral in Merseyside. Birkenhead is perhaps best known for the shipbuilding of Cammell Laird, and for the town’s seaport.
The title is based on the song “Dancing in the Dark” sung by Bing Crosby, which Tommy O’Mara first sang to Flo when they first met.
This novel is also set in Liverpool. The first narrator is Millie, and we learn that her family live in Kirkby. Kirkby is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley, Merseyside. Historically in Lancashire, it developed from the 1950s to the 1970s as a housing overspill of Liverpool. It is roughly 10 km north-east of Liverpool.
The flat where Flo lived most of her life is in Toxteth. Toxteth is an inner city area of Liverpool. Toxteth is located to the south of the city and is bordered by Liverpool City Centre, Edge Hill, Wavertree and Aigburth. The book describes the area as a depressed neighbourhood with crime and prostitution being common.
The Mystery is the park where Flo and Tommy O’Mara go for a walk the first time and where they make love. Wavertree Playground, also known locally as The Mystery, was one of the first purpose-built public playgrounds in the United Kingdom.
During the war apart from the air raids, which kill Flo’s mother and Albert, there is another important event. Mr Fritz, her boss at the laundry, is arrested and sent to a detention camp in the Isle of Man.Following the compulsory evictions of tenants in the properties and the erection of two barbed wire fences around the perimeter, Hutchinson Camp opened in the second week of July 1940.It initially had only 415 internees but by the end of July this figure had risen to 1,205 internees, almost all of whom were German and Austrian.