This is the fictional counterpart of an earlier non-fiction title By the Waters of the Danube -- as, through imaginary characters (probably drawn from her own bitter experience) Alexandra Orme tells of the life on the ragged edge endured by the Polish refugees in war-threatened Budapest. Natalie is fourteen, already accustomed to lying, cheating, stealing and cadging for survival. Her mother, a worn drab, her grandmother, a princess on whose meagre stipend they stave off starvation, and Natalie live in one room in a down-at-heels hotel. Natalie hates the world -- and most of her world dislikes her in return. She sneaks in where she is not wanted; she begs food and steals oddments; she listens at keyholes and lies herself out of trouble; she is merciless in making trouble for others, spying, tattling, and making up almost credible lies to make herself important....As a portrait of a once proud people clutching at shreds of the past -- and of youth destroyed by the false lives they lead, this is an unforgettable vignette. But it makes almost unrelievedly grim reading. Even Natalie's one soft spot, her friendship with tragic small Nicolas, does little to lighten the shadows...One ventures to hope that Alexandra Orme will turn her gifts to other areas where there will not be that sense of a many times told scene from a bitter past.