A very significant first novel, by a Southerner living in California, a book written in the pattern of THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY, but wholly original and extraordinarily moving. A book of California -- more than simply the story of the struggle between Belle Vasquez, the town prostitute, facing reality, and the town's citizens, hidden behind masks of hypocrisy. The detailed character portraits of the small town might have been written by the pen of Sinclair Lewis... First a ""cyclorama"" of the past -- flashbacks through the generations of owners of the valley -- Indians missionaries -- soldiers -- colonists -- fortune hunters -- three generations of Spanish feudal lords -- cattle kings -- pioneers. Then the present, and Belle, moved by the needs of her idiot son, by hatred and a desire for revenge against the town's leading citizen, comes up against the forces of power and money, of ""virtue"" fearing disgrace. A splendid place of work, and one that deserves consideration.