A postmodern Victorian novel from Irish writer Boylan (Black Baby, Last Resorts) in which the squalid poverty and diminishing expectations of the numerous Devlin family of Dublin are related with almost gleeful black humor. Children of a misalliance--an English mother with style and social pretensions married to a working-class father--they live in a tenement, where one of their few rooms is given over to a display of expensive knickknacks and furniture that their mother brought from England. Of her ten children, Mrs. Devlin favors her three sons, for whom she nurtures extravagant expectations of social advancement; the girls, on the other hand, are expected to keep house and earn money as soon as they are old enough. Daisy, the eighth daughter, who is six when the story begins in 1896, is the main protagonist. Emotionally stunted by her adored father's sexual advances, she's the somewhat detached observer of this Dickensian family in which mother sacrifices all, including her daughters, for appearance's sake; sexual ignorance is the norm; and death is a regular caller--father is killed stopping a runaway horse; brother drowns in a canal; a sister dies in childbirth; and elder sister Lena dies of typhus. Daisy becomes a nun, but leaves the convent when she meets handsome Cecil Cantwell. They marry, have two children, but soft-hearted Cecil is a dreamer--and an inveterate ladies' man who can't be trusted even with one's sister. Daisy tries to live just for the day, but it's not easy, especially when married to Cecil. And as Ireland moves toward self-rule, the downbeat and pretty awful Devlin history sputters to an inconclusive end. Tart telling of the way it probably was in Dublin's not-so- fair city, and a relentlessly realistic riposte to all those affirmative sagas of intergenerational sweetness and life.