Not since Years of Grace have we had a novel of manners- Chicago the setting- to compare with this. I found it fun to read, a sort of American Red Plush. Prairie Avenue, in the era of its grandeur, 1885 to the turn of the century, is really the hero of the story- Aunt Lydia, grande dame, whose past could not be unearthed is the heroine -- and Ned Ramsay is merely the interlocutor, the interpreter of the passing scene. Ned had had no roots, his early youth was patterned by the good times and the bad times as his father's fortunes ebbed and flowed. Only when he went to Aunt Lydia and Uncle Hiram, in one of the bad times, did he find that Prairie Avenue claimed him as her own. Wiser than his years, he explored the reasons behind the facade:- Aunt Lydie's coterie of men was more than just ""company""; and Mrs. Kennerly's ""nerves"" had a less fashionable significance. But Ned kept his knowledge to himself, and became the staff on which the others- old and young alike- learned to lean. The novel takes the reader behind the scenes, and the mores of the bombastic young city of 1885 to 1904 become real. There's nostalgia here for an older generation; there's a march of time, American-wise, for those who would explore the not so distant past of bedizened splendor and easy wealth; and there are the stories of the loves and deaths that made up life on Prairie Avenue. Chicago was their monument; Prairie Avenue was their background; money their goal. The wrap-around jacket by John O'Hara Cosgrave II catches the flavor of the times.