Bernard Chanticleer, reluctant shoe salesman in his father's old firm, dreams vague and watery dreams of glory. His social stance is limp and deadly conformist, from the way he parts his hair to the style of car he drives. Mummy and Daddy, clinging frantically to their rung on the graduated social perch, would like Bernard to fly higher. He flaps. He falls. He is brought down by Barbara Darling, London's brightest stage star. Subjected from early childhood to the sexual assaults of a Humbert-like mesmerist who dominated her parents, she needs one male victim in expiation. Bernard Chanticleer is teased into a capon before he ever has the chance to crow. Barbara and Bernard were the victims of their parents and the British social system. Bernard's people love it and Barbara's were cowed by it. Only the fittest survive -- in this case Barbara, an unthinking Collector in reverse. The author's talent for the detailed, sustained comic scene, first noted in The Fourth of June, is still evident but muted here by the heaviness of his episodic satire and the weightlessness of Bernard.