A ""must book"" -- yes, for the shops in which Virginia Woolf is recognized, appreciated, and rightfully given her unique place in English literature. But for the department stores, for many circulating libraries, Virginia Woolf would be difficult selling, difficult renting. Definitely, this is not of the school of obscurantism to which The Waves belonged. Nor has it the brittle vividness of Mrs. Dalloway, nor the imaginative quality of Orlando. It is more direct than her later work, but gives one the feeling of having sat through a play in which the characters simply suggest or describe action taking place off stage, and in which there is no ""business"" -- no drama taking place before the eyes of the audience. From 1880 to the present one follows the fortunes and misfortunes of the family, with its many ramifications, and at the close no one character has taken on substance and reality. And yet, for sheer magic of handling the English language, the book is a joy to read, there is a crystal, fragile beauty, lacking substance, lacking shadows -- or perhaps it is the shadow we see. She has succeeded admirably in her purpose, -- the tracing of a pattern of life impinging on consciousness, and avoiding action and plot and situations.