It is December 1948. While their husbands self-sacrificingly remain at work in town, Sarah and her sister-in-law Jennifer spend yet another summer by the sea, watching the children in the deep water and trying to avoid the annual judgement-by-mother-in-law at the hands of the indomitable Alice. Secret relief comes for Jennifer when she meets an older man, Henry, who listens to her and provides an occasional oasis of sanity in the midst of her holiday madness. At the same time, Sarah is determined to put their family back on track by smartening up its image and exposing its atavistic ills to the disinfectant of sunlight and the open air. When Henry is discovered to be at the centre of this family's business, the dynamic daughters-in-law have to stand firm and defy Alice, who guards their tragedy with all the calmness of the self-justified.