First published in 1988, this is the story of Polly Kops, who lives in a charming part of West London, in a big house on a lovely garden square, with her lover and three daughters. From the outside, she looks to be living an ideal life, but upon closer inspection, it's easy to see that Polly's life is far from perfection: the bills haven't been paid in months; the phone has been cut off; her lover is a useless cad; and her house is falling apart. Polly can barely keep it together. It's a marked contrast to her earlier life, married to a wealthy man, and living in financial comfort - that life fell apart the day her husband discovered her affair with Clancy, her cousin and current lover, who would rather buy himself a new suit than pay for electricity or food for the slapdash family.
Next door it's a much more civilised arrangement - at least, upstairs, where Anna lives with her husband Geoffrey in quiet, comfortable wedded bliss. Too bad about the downstairs tenant, a single mother of three who rents for a paltry £20 per week and will never leave. Why would she, after all? She has a garden flat, in a lovely area, for next to nothing, and no lump sum of money - no matter how much Anna scrapes together to offer her - will be enough to bribe her to go.
As Time Goes By is a look into the lives of two women who, despite living mere metres away from each other, are as different as night and day. Their ambitions may not be the same - Anna wishes desperately for a quiet life with her increasingly distant husband, while Polly grasps at security for herself and her children - but their struggles are surprisingly parallel in certain ways. After all, what's more important to any of us than the people we love most?