Anthony C. West is an Irish writer of lyrical power and persuassivness as he has demonstrated in River's End and The Native Movement. This is a traditional novel of youthful rebellion and initiation set against the intractability of the Irish spiritual landscape. Given sensitive youth, the conflict may be said to be readymade though West's considerable gifts raise the level well beyond the confines of sociology. The time is just after the Civil War when adolescent Simon Green begins to feel sealed in by the authorities in his life. They include his parents, an aunt who is often a kind of surrogate mother, and a puritanical schoolmaster who is both terrifying and ridiculous. Simon has a tangential relationship with Thubby Knight, a crafty but limited fellow student whose main interest is the mating habits of all living creatures and who persuades Simon to raise a ferret which can be used for hunting rabbits. The little ferret proves his worth but Simon is more interested in the largely imaginary seduction of slatternly Agnes Jameson. Actually it is the far more knowledgeable Agnes who seduces passive Simon. In a kind of undefined spirit of resentment Simon lets his ferret die of starvation and this is a reflection of the incompleteness of his character, a state in which West leaves his young hero. Esthetically, this is not unsatisfactory, as there are indications that Simon will eventually make his own definite choices about the kind of life he wants to lead. Still, the book is a lot stronger on style than substance.