Following five decades of several families brawling and breeding in a snippet of London slums called Autumn Alley is like overhearing ripe gossip on a cross-country bus; however raw (and dense with dialect) in the telling, it's curiously soothing and addictive. This all starts in 1884 when Tim Murphy and cousin Dandy Fitzgerald, fresh from Ireland, set up in Autumn Alley with Tim's kind and pretty wife Mary and their children Mollie and Timmo (who is destined to run off almost forever with pregnant Bridie). Queen-pin of the Alley is blowsy, tuba-mouthed Lil Welton, who--except for brother-in-law George the Tinker, her bedmate when husband Bill's away--has no use for men (""Not if their arseholes hung with diamonds""). The sorrow of Lil's life will be the tragic death of Mary Murphy, and the fear of her life is that Dandy's wife, tough business tycoon Maud, will sell her house from under her. In fact, Maud will buy and clean up the Alley while having her griefs--the WW I death of son Larry (married to Tim's Mollie, who will never marry again) and the spoiled obnoxiousness of daughter Patricia. Later on, Patricia, LiPs Colleen, and Lew (son of the only Jewish Alley couple) will all go gallivanting around, in and out of show business, in and out of love, while poor Ellen Brown, crushed by her mad preacher father and an unhappy love life, will find security with a lesbian lover. And Mollie. . . . Well, it goes on and on, into three generations, ending with 16-year-old Angel, daughter of aging Tim by a horrid new French wife. With almost more characters and plots than even this vast book can hold (Kennedy's Maggie was more focused and swift)--hardly a class act but knees-up all the way.