Things change in the years after the knot is tied, and for the well-bred, gently neurotic English couples in Huth's delightful fifth novel (Wanting, 1985, etc.), marriage has become something between a companionable slipknot and a neck-binding noose. (Actually, of course, they're both the same knot--it's all a question of who's feeling chafed.) One way to loosen the knot--or to live with it--is to keep your own secrets. Thomas Arkwright--middle-aged, fastidious, and grumpy--has a great many secrets, mostly having to do with his passion for women and painting. His wife Rachel's secret is simple sleep. She retreats, guiltily, to her fine linen sheets and shuts out the world. Mary Lutchins, happily married to Bill for many years, has only one thing to hide--her obsessive worrying about death. Bill's own secret is that he has long known Mary's secret, and he knows, too, how to save her from it. The Lutchins's daughter, Ursula, dreams of a life somewhere far away from detested Oxford, where her husband Martin is a don. Martin, for his part, secretly thrives on the beauty of Oxford and never forgets how lucky he is to work there. Wealthy Toby Farthingoe's secret life is spent outdoors, at night, observing the nocturnal habits of badgers while his wife Frances, alone in her bed, is left to dream up every perfect, outrageous, exorbitant detail of the fancy dress ball she is planning, including a misguided fishtail dress, intended to transform her into a mermaid. It's at the Farthingoes' ball that all of these hopes, wishes, and couples intersect, and, although it's already September, more than a few midsummer night dreams come true. Witty, wise, and wonderful: it's the marriage waltz danced as it should be--to its own secret music.