Susan Hill is the most uncompromising of writers and this is a monochrome of rural England where lives proceed in synergistic harmony with the natural world around them were it not for that whim of fate. Obviously reminiscent of Thomas Hardy this time. Ruth, barely twenty, has just lost her young husband to a falling tree and through the months to follow she is considered daft by her relatives (all except a much younger brother-in-law) as she isolates herself in the house with her memories, keeps a private watch by his grave, and finally disposes of all his belongings to a peddler -- another Station of the Cross accomplished. In time, slow time, her grief is no longer exclusive -- she helps another bereaved family -- and with the coming of spring she is readier to go on. . . . Once again Miss Hill's novel achieves a consummate simplicity -- we cannot fault its deliberate tonelessness without acknowledging its universality.