Elizabeth White– A shy English girl sent to live in Ireland during World War II to escape the dangers of the bombings in London. She lives there for five years, becoming confident and happy in the care of the O'Connor family.
Aisling O'Connor– A confident and boisterous girl who takes the shy Elizabeth under her wing. In turn, Aisling becomes more sensitive under Elizabeth's influence.
Johnny Stone– A charming, handsome but selfish man whom Elizabeth, and later Aisling, fall in love with.
Henry Mason– Elizabeth's husband; a kindly man whom she unexpectedly falls for after realising Johnny will never commit to her.
Tony Murray– Aisling's husband, whose alcoholism eventually ruins their marriage.
Eileen and Sean O'Connor– The kindly parents of Aisling, who treat Elizabeth like their own daughter.
Violet White– Elizabeth's mother. She and Eileen were childhood friends, but over the years she has become snobbish and distant. Her marriage collapses after the war, and she is later revealed to be suffering from schizophrenia.
George White– Elizabeth's father; a quiet, emotionally distant, and timid man who fails to recognise the problems in his marriage.
Harry Elton– Violet's second husband, whom Elizabeth initially resents, but eventually grows fond of.
Sean O'Connor Junior– Aisling's eldest brother, who is rejected by his father when he decides to join the British army. He is later killed in a bombing.
Stefan Worksy– An elderly Polish antique shop owner who gives Elizabeth her first job, becoming something of a mentor to her.
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