The long distance runner slowed down years ago, and this is another of Sillitoe's earnest, tenacious novels of ordinary people ruminating--and rumination--on their more serious problems, mainly on the hard downhill road of middle age. The widower is Charlie, a career soldier determined that son William will become a ""better version"" of himself. William is sent to military school, makes a top flight gunnery officer in World War II (there's a shell-by-salvo account), and is a lieutenant colonel when he marries Georgina, a Brigadier's daughter who, on the rebound from an unsuccessful love affair, exists (as does William) in a ""vast bowl of loneliness."" Fated to ""start off on the wrong foot. . . from the day they were born in their separate corners of the universe,"" the pair alternate passion and bitterness, then part. Georgina resumes her old affair, and William, who has left the army, is now ""beyond"" everything he has been called upon to be and do, but manages to become a teacher, remarry, and have children. Finally, he is ""back into himself."" Although the introspection that dogs each turn of circumstance and posture threatens some slow going, Sillitoe retains his commendable honesty of intent and precise details of time, place and happenings--and this is his most interesting novel in some time.