In 1950s Auckland things are changing – fast. Allie Manaia works the Elizabeth Arden counter at Smith and Caughey's. She still has nightmares about a tragedy two years earlier. Kathleen Lawson – rich, lonely and bored – is one of Allie's customers. Kathleen takes a shine to Allie but when Kathleen discovers Allie's husband is Maori, her attitude changes.
Polly, Allie's beautiful sister-in-law, is embracing the era's more relaxed moral standards, living a vibrant but wayward life while leaving her young daughter to be raised by her mother.
As each woman navigates the shifting social and cultural landscape of the 1950s, she is faced with new possibilities and decisions – with freedom comes joy, but also fear and, occasionally, mistakes.
I wrote this sequel to Fire eleven years after Fire was published. Why the big gap? Because I wanted to know how characters from the earlier book were getting on two years after the terrible fire at Dunbar and Jones department store, and I also wanted to bring back characters from the Children of War series. They never go away, you know, characters, once you make them up. They stay in your head forever. And I wanted to have a look at racism in New Zealand in the 1950s, and sexism, and all the pain that went with more or less forced adoptions. Fun times.
'The perfect blend of fact and fiction … keeps you turning the pages long after you should have switched off the light.'