Caute's titles (At Fever Pitch, The Decline of the West, News from Nowhere) often indicate the political charge his novels carry; this time the echo of Disraeli's Victorian polemic Sybil, or the Two Nations sets the stage for an unsettlingly incestuous image of Thatcher's England. Adolescent Michael Parsons--military father, progressive boarding, school--falls in love with his older cousin Veronica almost as soon as she arrives in 1939 from South Africa. He doesn't know yet, as she does, that she's his half-sister as well as his cousin, but the revelation doesn't curtail his fantasies or--after his parents' death has thrown V and him together at school (he as pupil, she as games mistress)--his importunities. When the war brings improbably eligible American GI Harold Rascoe into V's orbit, Mike, stung to jealous rage, tries to convince V that Harold's a fraud; forges an accusatory letter that gets both V and himself dismissed from school and sends V into the Fire Service; intercepts Harold's frantic letters from his posting while V's hospitalized after a bombing; tells Harold about his affair with V; and confirms Harold's dismissal by signing V's name to a telegram that sends Harold to his death. The beauty and horror of Mike's incestuous love are magnified from the beginning by intercut glimpses of its consequence: 40 years after Harold and V are dead, resentful newshound Bert Frame gets wind of the story and starts to gather evidence against Mike, now Thatcher's coldly conservative Home Secretary and heir apparent, and still (as columnist ""John Ford"") a secret defender of incest. An unsparing anatomy of blindly self-justifying political narcissism in the form of an unforgettably tender, monstrous love.