A gentle, gossipy tale set in the postwar 40's that, with copious flashbacks, autumnly illuminates a young woman's childhood and youth as shaped by involvements with a glittering, deceptively welcoming family--the family next door, which hides some guilty secrets and some rather rotten impulses. Rachel Bond, living with her stern grandmother in a small English village while her parents are posted in Uganda, is fascinated by the Rossiters--the endlessly buoyant family wistfully spied on by Rachel through the garden wall. Laughing, quarreling loudly, the Rossiters seem ``a corporate force, united against all outsiders.'' There's jolly father Hugh plus artist mother Carina, the ``perfect mother,'' with her soft charm, adoring her brood: classy Diana, chic and aloof; handsome Gavin; friendly Barney; and Alannah, who, once the thrilling invitation is given Rachel, becomes a chum. In the present, Rachel, an unwed mother living in a cottage in Cornwall, recalls the terrifying pendulum-swings of life with the Rossiters, when warm smiles turn icy and when Rachel is denounced, driven from their Paradise, heartbroken. Then during the war, there's reconciliation, and engagement to Gavin--until Rachel's horrible discovery. Now, a grown-up Rachel is finding success with her writing, friends of like mind, and the joys of raising little Tess. The paternity of little Tess is not revealed until the close--predictable but neat. Mildly fluttery but likable, with green lawns and London wartime grit. By the British author of Rings of Bells (1982), etc.