From the author of A Disorderly Girl (p. 101): a more conventional, less engaging sort of family saga--with a zesty heroine who has to share center-stage with assorted stereotypes. The New Zealand-based story begins in 1930, on the farm of the March family: an earthquake destroys the area, and the family moves to Depression-era Auckland. Young Sheila becomes a shorthand-typist, is seduced by her boss, then falls for her boss' son, and leaves for Sydney in shame. Meanwhile, her brother Stephen--who has visions--enters a seminary but leaves to be a soldier when the War begins: he's wounded, then marries a young Chinese nurse (who'll be killed by the Japanese). And younger brother Little Joe, also in the WW II army, becomes a troop entertainer with his Borge-like piano parodies, but goes catatonic while killing the enemy. After the war: Sheila, who has fallen for handsome Beau Beaufait (they spend a week aboard a rubber dinghy after a torpedoing), marries him and takes off for England, only to discover the secrets in his past (a Rebecca rip-off); Stephen, back in the priesthood, is captured by the Chinese in Korea and is brainwashed; and Little Joe winds up in an English Shakespearean troupe. Like the ladies in A Disorderly Girl, Shells has real fiber--but the brothers are pallid, the plotting is gimcrack, and the writing (especially the repeated ""hot and copper sky"" imagery of Stephen's visions) is often enervating. Routine wartime-saga theatrics, then, with perhaps some fringe appeal for Thorn Birds devotees.