Summer 1940. The evacuation of Dunkirk proves that the British can rise to a challenge, even against seemingly insurmountable odds. But now the soldiers walk the streets of Dover, even wandering through Woolworths store, and take weary turns on the town's skating rink.
Life, despite the threat of invasion and the reality of bombing, must go on and people must take comfort where they find it. Toby Hendry, a fighter pilot, is awaiting orders when he meets Giselle, a young Frenchwoman who took the chance to flee occupied France with the English troops. Their love affair feels like a summer idyll, but can it withstand the forces of war?
Meanwhile, reserve naval commander Paul Instow has been called up to fight in a war for which he feels too old. Distracting him from his worries is Molly, a young Dover prostitute. Their relationship is tender and happy, but is this a love born from desperation or could it be something more permanent?
And then there are Harold, Spots and Boot, three boys desperate to fight the German invaders, armed only with catapults and a stolen Bren gun...
In Dover Beach Thomas chronicles the lives and loves of ordinary people in besiged Britain during these tense, but curiously elated days.