One can see why this brief but affecting novel (Rubens' 14th) won England's Booker Prize. Its tone is a deft and singular blend of black comedy, surrealism, and parable; its subject is the atonement and regeneration of a, wonderfully perverse character, Veronica Smiles, a spinster and explorer, who at the age of 37 hears God calling to her in the wastes of the Sahara. Stout-hearted atheist that she is, Veronica resists even after subsequent divine visitations from him whom she calls, "". . .the Only One, the Holy One, the ubiquitous leech himself."" At the same time, she finds herself drawn to the third drawer in the spare room of her flat, where her late father deposited a file containing certain horrifying truths about her past--truths on the order of fratricide, as well as about the suicides of both her parents, for which she is partly to blame. She seeks to flee from these devastating discoveries by marrying the gentle but impotent Edward Boniface (""With our names,"" he tells her, ""we are what is known as a happy couple""), and becoming pregnant (the result of a plumber's call early on the morning of her marriage to Edward). However, the voice of her father calls her back to face the past and learn a lesson, which has more to do with love than with guilt or blame. This is the story of a sinner brought to light, told with delicious comic blasphemy. It is uplifting; it may be Rubens' best.