A contemporary, suburban life in struggle interweaves with war-torn1940s Rotterdam. Each storyline follows a woman in pursuit of a dream.
Hanna and her husband Leo struggle to make ends meet for their children Jack and Lucy. Hanna teaches refugees part-time and on call and Leo paints houses as his foreign qualifications aren’t recognised where they live. At the opening of one of the homes that he painted, Leo mentions to renowned publisher Vivienne, that his wife was once an aspiring writer with moderate success. When Vivienne approaches Hanna, Hanna awkwardly offers the epic wartime love story of her Oma as a sample. Vivienne bites and asks for a manuscript: if it’s good enough, it could win her a cash prize and a publishing deal in a prestigious writing competition. It could get them out of their struggle.
Hanna wavers at first, they can’t afford the competition entry fee, she doesn’t have time and both her and Leo know that when she writes, she loses track of reality. But the thrill of the story and the reverie of writing draws Hanna in regardless and she begins.
She must now balance her family's demanding everyday needs and job with a story that starts to obsessively pull her back into a dreamlike writing state everywhere she looks.
Hanna’s story interweaves with Oma’s, that which she writes... a powerful tale of young lovers, Nora and George, who marry against odds during the Second World War in Rotterdam. They face the horrors of their war-torn world by clinging to their love but are eventually torn from each other when George is taken by force. Nora, with their infant son, holds to the dream of a life together to pull her through unfathomable odds and to survive.
As Hanna delves deeper and deeper into the story she writes, her real life falls further away from her. She becomes distant from her family and work, disregarding both their warnings, and eventually culminating in the loss of her job and a terrifying injury to her daughter. In her shame, Hanna abandons the story and forgoes the writing competition.
Hanna makes amends with her family and tries to return to the fulfilling of everyone else’s needs. But finally, she reconnects with her dream and reconciles her writing process with her family, reflecting on the values learnt through her grandmother's tragic love story. Her book is published out of competition and her family life restored.
The two tales of the two women interweave, following the challenges and determination of each as they pursue their unlikely dreams. It is a story that reflects the gentle yet tenacious strength of woman. The story of Nora and George is true.