From historical vistas (Lady Hamilton, Empress Josephine, Marie Antoinette) this author swings to the near-present for Muriel Kershaw's story as written by herself to her son, David. Started in 1939, it goes back to Muriel's stern Lancashire childhood, the restrictions imposed by her father, a butcher, and their Wesleyan church, and her imprudent friendship with Esther Richards, the worldly niece of Miss Maynard who is educating Muriel beyond her family confines. It is Esther, after the death of Muriel's father, who provides a governess' job for Muriel in London, who introduces her to Christopher Lawson, and who, after marrying the criminal lawyer Elliot Thompson, is put out when Kit marries Muriel. Muriel watches Kit overplay his hand and ride with his luck as he pursues in semi-social ways and as he evades conscription in 1914; her knowledge of him is complete when he condones her affair with Elliot in the hopes that its results -- Muriel's pregnancy -- will force Elliot to give him a war contract. But Elliot refuses, joins up and is killed and Kit, keeping the secret of David's parentage, brings the boy up as his own, estranging him from Muriel, planning his career and, when David refuses to conform, turning against him. Muriel, when Kit goes so far as to seduce David's girl, wins her boy back only to find out that cancer will not give her much time with him -- and the war shortens this when David is killed.... A woman's way -- of a stubborn courage and uncompromising attitude toward reality -- in a woman's terms, this is substantiation rather than romanticizing.