This is the Atlantic $10,000 prize novel. That is tantamount to saying:- ""Here is a book off to a good start with a good firm's endorsement and enthusiasm back of it. But -- it has a hurdle to take, in that it will be viewed more critically than it might be otherwise."" Will it make the grade? I liked it. I thought it very entertaining reading. It is original. There are at least two characters that are memorable, -- Grandma and Dima, who is one of the most enchanting small boys I've encountered for a long time. The setting -- Tientsin, in China, at the start of the Japanese invasion, is presented from a new angle, that of White Russians, struggling for bare survival and a maintenance of the ideals that once were taken for granted. The tempo-thoroughly Russian, philosophical, hilarious, unbalanced and lovable -- is contagious. You get annoyed at the family's susceptibility to emotional appeal -- and yet sympathetic with their open-heartedness. Viewed as a novel, it is difficult to pigeonhole. ""The family"" is the plot, they and their boarders and the Chinese servant and his multitudinous relatives, the pattern of events as they affect one and another. There is romance, there is pathos, there is an undercurrent of political machinations, there are solutions of one sort and another. But there is no integrated plot. A book for a special sort of market, those readers who like something out of the ordinary run of fiction, but not -- I should say -- a sure best seller for the general reader.