A tightly knit, mature novel of love, passion and politics in a small town in Ireland. A portrait in the round, this series of brief episodes holds the unity of tone of a well-blocked folk drama, with each character subordinate to the forces that control him -- the constructing, demanding mores of the townspeople and the church, the obligation to natural forces -- the fields and floodlands of the agricultural town, and the passions and yearnings of a vigorous people. When lovely May Campbell becomes involved with soft-voiced, middle-aged Fiddis, the solicitor, and learns the feline arts of love from Alice Graham, an outcast woman with knowledge of the world outside the village, a chain of emotional reactions carries the reader into a varied and entertaining group of characters. There is gangling, meditative Pat Rafferty, who thought he was the father of May's child, and who in his relationship with a man once accused of killing his wife found the tragedy and beauty of life; ancient Aunt Aggie who bitterly clung to her wasted life; two little boys wise in the knowledge of illegal adult doings but innocent in spirit; two ""lost"" young men rescued from drifting by the ironic savior -- the approaching World War II; and village clowns, reformers and farmers. A sustained, appealing effort.