It takes more than a beautiful day -- and the title's bitter irony can scarcely be overstressed-- to mitigate the gloom of the three lives this exposes. Old Lorenz, seventy, widowed and dependent on his daughter, scrutinizes the past as it comes back to him in shreds and wonders which of his carefully monitored odd sensations will be the onset of death. His unmarried daughter Carla goes dully from duty to duty, as teacher and daughter, worn out with the hateful predictability of her days and the knowledge that she is aging. Gunther, Lorenz's irresponsible son, covers his weakness with dreams and excuses -- shabby defenses, but the others are also guarded in their own ways and equally untouchable. The story centers on their desperate but nonetheless halfhearted attempts to make a change. With funds borrowed from Carla, Lorenz sends Gunther to claim a sum of money due him since the war; and Carla vacations alone for the first time. However, their possibilities are predetermined by their characters and they have long since acquiesced. Their three distinct kinds of emptiness, and their self-defeating complicity, are rendered with minute exactness; and so, while it is hard not to respect this novel, it may take a streak of masochism to enjoy it.