A hefty night-table bender which, in its stretch from 1915 to 1969, encompasses the sledgehammer woes and nuptial/extra-nuptial flights of three sturdy women of succeeding generations. New Zealander Fiona, who has a child by a magnetic politician, gets married off to Padraic Cleary, well below her station but a good man for a' that. Valiant Fiona wearily toils on in poverty, bearing innumerable sons and one daughter, Meggie, before Paddy's land-rich, widowed sister imports the family to Australia. Enter Father Ralph, whose ambition will carry him to Vatican prominence, but whose love.for the child Meggie will lead, when she is a woman, to a passion he cannot control. Meggie, loving only Ralph, will marry cold hand Luke, brutally callous. She tricks Luke into fatherhood and bears Justine before spinning into paradise with Father Ralph--who has temporarily flung cassock to the winds. Gentle son Dane, who will, ironically, become a priest, is the result. But deaths dog the family: Fiona's favorite sons, then Paddy, and then Dane and Ralph. Indestructible Fiona and Meggie are left to bring about Justine's promising marriage to a sensitive, happily exiled German. Again, as in her last, Tim (1974), McCullough's groaning tuckerbag of implausibilities is redeemed somewhat by her sure footing among the shearing sheds and landscapes of Australia.