Although this British author's lively satiric impulse tends to wilt now and then in the heat of overly rich or decorative prose, still this chronicle, set on a most modest, un-touristed Greek island, in which a middle-aged divorced woman mothering a trio of maddening teenagers gropes for selfhood through sex and savvy, has some bright inventions, delightful scenery and a passel of quips, cranks and comeuppances. Artist Harriet, 40, is upset by the possibility that ""she had outlived her usefulness."" Her three children--university students Tim and Lulu (who one day had turned ""big, bloody-minded and costly"") and whiney, exploitive 14-year-old Kitty--are downright intimidating. And lover Joe is ""hung about with wife and securities."" Lovingly, rather desperately, she plans for Joe's arrival on the island of Keptos, the fatherless family's longtime vacation retreat. She'll use the island's beauty to ""compensate for the erosion of her own."" But Harriet, desperate, waiting for Joe, almost makes it with a native Apollo--an adventure cut short by Harriet's scrupulous sense of hygiene. Also Roger has arrived--a slimy acquaintance of the children's, who herds them off mysteriously on outings from which Harriet is firmly excluded. But Joe (""Mum's bit on the side"") does arrive, and there's an idyll of sea-scrunptious sex, and the luxury of loving. And miraculously Joe brings some kind of order to the household, leashing Roger and keeping roving Kitty under lock and key. But Joe, ""the ordinary man,"" is also Joe the happily married, who leaves Harriet to search for a runaway Kitty and absorb some nasty truths about the secret doings of Lulu and Tim. With the appearance of ex-husband Martin, she recognizes that her darlings were none of hers anyway. So it's off to Lethe and the pleasures of the tourist hotel on the island of Psiros, which she has been watching via telescope, learning patterns of mating and social behavior--and the jaunty side excursions of single women. Although Boylan occasionally pushes too hard for impact (""The tubes of her heart had been ligated""), still there's a caustic vigor here, which--if pared of some poetic avoirdupois--should shine through in future work.