The village where Vanessa grew up in is a fictional one in Kent, and the closest town is Hayes.
During the war Vanessa joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), whose members were referred to as WAAFs, was the female auxiliary of the Royal Air Force during World War II, established in 1939. At its peak strength, in 1943, WAAF numbers exceeded 180,000, with over 2,000 women enlisting per week. WAAFs did not serve as aircrew. The use of women pilots was limited to the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), which was civilian. Although they did not participate in active combat, they were exposed to the same dangers as any on the “home front” working at military installations. They were active in parachute packing and the crewing of barrage balloons in addition to performing catering, meteorology, radar, aircraft maintenance, transport, communications duties including wireless telephonic and telegraphic operation.
Vanessa and Alistair first meet in Brookwood Cemetery where they respectively attend the funerals of Johnny Quinnell and Wilton Bovary. Brookwood Cemetery, also known as the London Necropolis, is a burial ground in Brookwood, Surrey. It is the largest cemetery in the United Kingdom and one of the largest in Europe.
In May, 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allied forces, ending the war. The final battles of the European Theatre of World War II as well as the German surrender to the Soviet Union and the Western Allies took place in late April and early May 1945.
Vanessa mentions the coupons she has to use to buy clothes. Everyone was given a Clothing Book with coloured coupons in it. Every item of clothing was given a value in coupons. To buy clothes people handed over their Clothing Book to the shopkeeper. who cut out one of the coupons. They then handed over money to the shopkeeper to pay for the clothes. The coupon system allowed people to buy one completely new set of clothes once a year.
Vanessa also uses some kind of domestic make-up for her legs, pretending she was wearing tights.
The play that Alistair chooses for his debut as a theatre producer is Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde. The story concerns Lady Windermere, who suspects that her husband is having an affair with another woman. She confronts him with it but although he denies it, he invites the other woman, Mrs Erlynne, to his wife’s birthday ball. Angered by her husband’s supposed unfaithfulness, Lady Windermere decides to leave her husband for another lover. After discovering what has transpired, Mrs Erlynne follows Lady Windermere and attempts to persuade her to return to her husband and in the course of this, Mrs Erlynne is discovered in a compromising position. It is then revealed Mrs Erlynne is Lady Windermere’s mother, who abandoned her family twenty years before the time the play is set. Mrs Erlynne sacrifices herself and her reputation to save her daughter’s marriage.