A first novel of quiet intensity in which the inhabitants of, and newcomers to, Banbury are treated to a winter of gossip-worthy events. Mrs. Windsor, separated from her husband, a famous writer, returns to his house with their son, Tony: young Mary Wile, believing herself alien, identifies herself with the newcomers, tries hard to become their friend, to ignore her father's new invention of a popcorn machine. Reality makes insecure her tenuous hopes, drives her dream of leaving Banbury further away. Through the Windsors, and the return of old man Forge's unsuccessful son, Mary's hand-me-down clothes, Tony's new interests in a near-by school, the calm face of the town is smashed when the librarian goes made, when Tony is drowned. Friendships based on despair, adolescence and its inarticulate yearnings, small town characters in unretouched poses -- these add up to a first novel of more than usual interest.