From the author of The Innocents (1986), A Perfect Woman (1985) and other tales of soul-thumping women and their sexual, psychical imbroglios, set in England and Africa--more of the excitable same. However, this coming-of-age story, about a young South African woman--especially when it deals with the ripe beauty of Africa or the peril of peoples encircled by accelerating violence--is at times intensely convincing. Emily Jones, a fierce little being, somehow survives a childhood soured by a miserable set of parents: frail Lilian, who longs for England; and Bernard, a gray failure who regularly explodes in rages. Both hate the place and the people, and both are filthy to servants. Meanwhile, Emily is sin-ridden, but oddly enough feels clean and free after witnessing a hideous murder. But passion hovers in the wings, even at age 11, when she meets adventurer Patrick Gallway--an obsession she'll keep on ice until she leaves her convent school. It's at the convent that she'll give passion a dry run in a religious channel (soon abandoned) and where she'll adore the ""beautiful and remote"" Virginia, an older girl who'll save her from despair. She'll leave the convent ""screaming for life."" Then life comes arunning via Patrick, who'll betray her beloved Africa for: England, Virginia, activism with expatriate, antigovernment South Africans and true love with a banned journalist. At last she returns to Botswana to toil in a clinic in a refugee settlement. Even before a reunion with journalist Reuben, Emily will know ""she had gone through a loop of fire and been forged fine and free."" In the midst of blowtorch emotions, there are subtler recognitions: the pathos of crumbling, aging parents in a bleak England, and the complex of anxieties, angers, terrors and barbed accommodations of both white and black refugees and natives under fire. Overdrawn but intermittently affecting.