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Sarah France is the 42-year-old widow of a GP, Henry. She lives in an often volatile family situation with her mother, Eleanor Prescott, and her daughter, eighteen-year-old Clare France. After Henry’s death, the three generations of women have to cope with one another as best they can, under their shared roof.
Sarah often finds herself in the middle of things, usually figuratively but always literally, as her mother lives upstairs and her daughter has the downstairs flat. Eleanor, ruthlessly cunning and emotionally manipulative, takes every opportunity to get one over on Sarah.
Anything told to Eleanor will spread quickly throughout the extensive “geriatric mafia”, the elderly of the area. Clare is trying to be independent of her mother, though often has to come running back in times of crisis.
Most of the time, Russell sees the women’s relationships second-hand through Sarah, although he isn’t opposed to taking the occasional more active role when necessary. In turn, Sarah can see some of Russell’s difficulties of living with a gay partner in 1980s London suburbia, while at the same time seeing Russell’s relationship as the one perfect marriage she knows.