This is a first novel set in an Italian section of the outskirts of Philadelphia during the course of World War II. The book is almost wholly devoted to the sensuous aspects of its characters' lives and it is written in a lyrical style. Drexel Street is described by one of the characters as ""a neighborhood of hot, juicy life"" and its pervasive influence is either accepted by its young people for the fact that it is or they are overcome by it. Two families are dealt with at length; the children of the ex-priest, Filippo Ro; and the highminded Bartolis. During the short period of time covered by the book the children grow to young adulthood formed by their individual reactions to the inescapable vitality and immediacy of their neighborhood and their heritage. There is the tender but guilty love between Niobe and her brother Andrea; the ironies in the death, at 18, of Laura Rossi, of a self induced abortion; and the final determination of Pompeii to take his father's place in the priesthood. Drexel Street will be left behind eventually, but unaltered, as a symbol of the permanence of a certain way of life and death. For a special readership.