Britisher Ellis (Unexplained Laughter, 1987; etc., etc.) offers a sharply amusing present-day retake of, say, A Midsummer Night's Dream--in which people are used by fairies for fairy- reproduction and then are caused to forget all about it. Eloise has always been an independent-minded girl, but her mother Clare is even less pleased than usual when Eloise leaves London for a little red cottage isolated in Wales and sets up housekeeping as a seamstress while boyfriend Simon labors as a woodworker. Things get only worse--to Clare's way of thinking- -when Eloise starts hinting about wanting a baby. And so, with longtime best friend Miriam, Clare goes on a rescue mission, tearing herself away from the cafes and shops of London and the many pleasurable woes the great city offers her as an aging divorcÇe--and goes out to the deep country, where ``nothing ever happened.'' Life together in the red cottage proves rather crowded, especially when half-vacant Eloise's moodiness only intensifies--and when very strange things happen, such as Eloise's walking in a downpour and staying dry. A gamekeeper with unnerving tales, four strange men who return again and again, a shepherd who seems not quite normal--all these not-humans will prove to have had a part in bringing about the sudden birth of Eloise's green-eyed ``baby,'' and they'll have even more to do- -and how--with the fate of this small but potent creature. As her story works toward its appropriately unshocking end, Ellis deepens the theme by remarking on humans' defilement of nature and on an obliviou earth that ``cared nothing for humanity.'' And her perfectly toned social satire unfailingly holds its own, as in the fairy gamekeeper's thoughts: ``Humans were useful for breeding, when you could catch one, and every now and then . . . he ate one, but otherwise he avoided them on the whole . . . . '' Bright, thoughtful fiction that clips along, having both its say and its fun.