The events of the novel take place in Suffolk. Suffolk is an East Anglian county of historic origin in England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south.
There are many references to Ipswich, which is where Max meets Clara, and later in time Eva also meets Marco. Ipswich is the county town of Suffolk, located on the estuary of the River Orwell, about 97 km north east of London.
Faith makes references to fantastic beings which she believes in like the selkies. Selkies are mythological creatures found in Irish, Scottish, Faroese, and Icelandic folklore Selkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land. The stories frequently revolve around female selkies being coerced into relationships with humans by someone stealing and hiding their sealskin, often not regaining the skin until years later upon which they commonly return to the sea, forsaking their human family.
Faith believes that her sister has been captured by the wild man of orfrod. Orford Castle is associated with the legend of the Wild Man of Orford. A naked wild man, covered in hair, was caught in the nets of local fishermen around 1167. The man was brought back to the castle where he was held for six months, being questioned or tortured; he said nothing, and behaved in a feral fashion throughout. The wild man finally escaped from the castle.
The island where Eva is kept a captive is fictional, but in a note the author tells us that the island is based on the Orford Ness. Orford Ness is a cuspate foreland shingle spit on the Suffolk coast in Great Britain, linked to the mainland at Aldeburgh and stretching along the coast to Orford. The Atomic Weapons Research Establishment had a base on the site, used for environmental testing, i.e. when a laboratory test is conducted to determine the functional performance of a component or system under conditions that simulate the real environment in which the component or system is expected to operate. Many of the buildings from this time remain clearly visible from the quay at Orford, including the distinctive “pagodas”.
Billy explains to Eva that the first British atomic weapon, called Blue Danube, was tested on the island. Blue Danube was the first operational British nuclear weapon. It also went by a variety of other names, including Smallboy, the Mk.1 Atom Bomb, Special Bomb and OR.1001, a reference to the Operational Requirement it was built to fill.
Billy eventually tells Eva about his experiences in Northern Ireland. He mentions Operation Banner. Operation Banner was the operational name for the British Armed Forces‘ operation in Northern Ireland from August 1969 to July 2007, as part of the Troubles. It was the longest continuous deployment in the British military’s history. The British Army was initially deployed, at the request of the unionist government of Northern Ireland, in response to the August 1969 riots. Its role was to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and to assert the authority of the British government in Northern Ireland.
He also talks about the hunger strikers, especially Bobby Sands. Robert Gerard Sands (9 March 1954 – 5 May 1981), commonly known as Bobby Sands, was an Irish member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who died on hunger strike while imprisoned at HM Prison Maze. He was the leader of the 1981 hunger strike in which Irish republican prisoners protested the removal of Special Category Status. His death and those of nine other hunger strikers was followed by a new surge of Provisional IRA recruitment and activity. International media coverage brought attention to the hunger strikers, and the Republican movement in general, attracting both praise and criticism.
Clara’s childhood was marked by the death of her parents. She lived in Egypt, and her parents were killed by the terrorist group “Muslim Brotherhood”. The Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamic organization that was founded in Ismailia, Egypt by Hassan al-Banna in March 1928 as an Islamist religious, political, and social movement.The group spread to other Muslim countries but has its largest, or one of its largest, organisations in Egypt, where for many years it has been the largest, best-organized, and most disciplined political opposition force, despite a succession of government crackdowns in 1948, 1954, 1965 after plots, or alleged plots, of assassination and overthrow were uncovered.
When Clara and Max move in together, they live in London. Clara goes on a march for the nuclear disarmament, and she gets hurt. The Aldermaston marches were anti-nuclear weapons demonstrations in the 1950s and 1960s, taking place on Easter weekend between the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire, England, and London, over a distance of 83 km. At their height in the early 1960s they attracted tens of thousands of people and were the highlight of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) calendar. On the 1963 Aldermaston march, a group calling itself Spies for Peace distributed leaflets as the march passed a secret government establishment, RSG 6. A large group, led by Peter Cadogan (an activist in the direct-action Committee of 100), left the march, against the wishes of the CND leadership, to demonstrate at RSG 6. Later, after the march reached London and an estimated 100,000 filled Trafalgar Square, there were disorderly demonstrations in which anarchists were prominent.
In 1984 there are some references to what is happening nationally. Faith mentions the miners’ strike that she sees on the news, but she isn’t interested because she doesn’t know any miners and doesn’t understand much about the matter. The miners’ strike of 1984–85 was a major industrial action to shut down the British coal industry in an attempt to prevent colliery closures.
Another event that the characters refer to is the 1984 Olympic Games. The 1984 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Los Angeles, California, United States in 1984.