Not easy reading, this long and minutely detailed story of industrial occupied France. The plot centers around a group of men connected with one of the few active mills in a ghost mill town, hard hit at the close of the ""Blum administration, focal point of unrest in a Channel village near the Belgian border, and finding a new life -- though a brief unhappy one -- with German occupation. There is Fougueux, worshipping the machine he runs, fearing to know for certain that he is impotent and keeping Melusine at arm's length; there is Loubain, his chum, who fights him over the bitch who runs after any man, and whom Loubain ultimately kills; there is Duneulis, owner, collaborator; there are Vernier and Valtin, junior officers in the company in which Loubain and Fougueux serve collapsing France: there is Ritter, German with some human impulses, who tries to shield them when they are prisoners, assigned to slave labor. It is a story of France slipping into degeneracy, and of painful rebirth, through sacrifice, sabotage, anger, hate. Authentic in feel, but overladen with detail, erratic in shifting focus.