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This is the first C. P. Snow novel since he terminated the Strangers and Brothers Bildungsroman and there are points in common beyond the collected, ruminative tone (although this has been far less closely developed than any in the above series). Once again this is a secular novel reflecting the world in which it takes place and while Snow seems quite comfortable with the youth of today, he does not seem to know them very well. The malcontents, all but one, are from backgrounds of some money, class, and modified power in this 18th century cathedral town and they sound much squarer and look much cleaner than their American equivalents. They are also to be faced with exposure on a serious charge -- they have been betrayed from within. Before too long they are accountable on a graver score -- the gratuitous death of one of their members who walks out of a fifth storey window, apparently having been given a fix. The novel retains its steady momentum as all discuss their measure of cowardice, guilt, and responsibility and as newer revelations relieve them of some of the onus. But actually it serves as a set discussion piece in which means and ends and hopes are calibrated while Snow once again outlines the moral lineaments of compromise and change in the new classless society. As one of the older members of what the younger members refer to as the ""machine"" or ""the Bourgeoisie"" comments, -- ""Minimum force. It's usually a good maxim."" For a conservator.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1972
Publisher: Scribners