A bone-dry telling of a potentially juicy tale about a British hotel-restaurant-and-whatnot mogul, a knighted, widowed tyrant who has a stranglehold on the lives of his four miserable children--one of them will take full revenge. Narrator Edwin, the youngest, remembers his childhood before and after Mother--a ``characterless'' beauty--drove off in a fury to her death. Then there is Father, away often from the family Follyfoot Manor (gloomy, of course), who'd had Edwin's beloved pet killed because the child had lied about school marks. Father is a man of ``little compromise and enormously high standards''--a specialist in ego-mangling. He finally allows eldest son Richard to be a pilot but succeeds in keeping him forever from marrying the woman he loves. William is gay and an alcoholic, and still reeling from Father's psychic pummeling. Elizabeth, like Mother, is an unloved beauty but also a rattly mess. She becomes a model, has many affairs, and still no one likes her. As for Edwin, who can please Father, he slips the leash to marry happily--although Pop still goes for the jugular. But of the four children, the question remains: Who was it that squealed to the government that Father had evaded taxation on a grand scale? This story could have had more popular punch if the characters were more robust and varied in mood. As it is, the narrator is either sunk in gloom or burning with rage, as are the others. The gossip, rich digs, food, and clothes are just no fun at all.