Published originally in the '40's, this is Pamela Hansford Johnson's first novel and toward the dose, on the eve of World War II, its first-person narrator Claude observes ""for there dies to-night, I think, the last epoch in which men can set their home and heart affairs foremost. . ."" It is pleasantly reassuring to read this kind of book which deals with the ordinary business of living and loving albeit without self-indulgence. The novel shifts from Bruges to London and back again to Bruges where Claude is first seen at 13, having been abandoned by his mother to his father who in turn had abandoned her for Helena, a younger woman -- common, forthright and blowsily alive. At that time Claude meets Cecil, for a day, a wishful romantic presence who seems to become more and more unattainable after she becomes a successful cabaret singer. Thus, settling for less, he later marries malleable, limited Meg and -- monitored by the memory of his earlier broken home -- tries to keep his marriage together long after it has become only perfunctory. However it is Helena with her tenacious vitality who really dominates the book and prompts a very genuine affection. She also lends it her canny, good-humored drive to offset the occasional sentimentality indicated by the title. It is neither as sharp nor reflective a novel as Miss Johnson will later write, but it is informed by her level intelligence which scans everything in sight and a tacit respect for the values which shape our ends. In short, a work of considerable probity and, just as surely, sympathy.