The New Zealand setting, and the new-author's talent for writing strong individual scenes, offset a stagy, old-hat plot and very heavy underlining of theme. The opening pages are by far the most resonant: 15-year-old Coral Harper is traveling, by bus and ferry and more bus, from the remote South Island coast to metropolitan Auckland--by plane, as her father suggested, a few hours' journey. But: ""I wanted to feel the distance growing mile by mile between my home, my father, and me. . . I wanted to feel my new life moving toward me. . . ."" Suspended between her ""two worlds,"" Coral thinks back to: the closeness that once existed between her fisherman father, her artist mother, and herself; her mother's account of marrying her father, against the wishes of her rich Auckland family, who cut her off; her mother's death--by accidental drowning, we come to realize--which she contrives to blame on her father (""godlike, a seagod even""). Now, to continue her piano study, she is going to bye in the house in Auckland where her mother grew up, with stylish Aunt Renee and her family; but she's resolved to keep them at a distance too, to create her ""own reality"" through her work (as her mother did with her painting). Aunt Renee and the other Winters turn out to be quite decent--a little in awe, if anything, of Coral's talent and apartness. It also doesn't hurt that comely Coral can slip right into social cousin Jenny's togs. So, from changing her mind about the Winters, she changes her mind about her Dad--whom she's about to rendezvous with in London at the future-jump close. Slick as a conception--but even the casual breakfast exchanges between Coral and the Winters are well handled (and even Coral's artist-mother has some fiber).