A perfect if inauspicious title for this second course of Howard's Cazalet Chronicles (begun with The Light Years, 1990), since this latest is all idling before something big happens--as the Cazalet writer-to-be, Clary, puts it, ``We need people to be in love with....We'll just have to wait.'' The waiting begins right after Chamberlain's ``peace with honor'' falls through and Hitler marches into Poland. At the Sussex manse of ``Brig'' Cazalet--now a blind old duffer shepherded around by his faithful spinster daughter, Rachel--the much extended Cazalet family gathers with their gas masks, not to mention orphaned babies (one of Rachel's charity), wounded soldiers, and London evacuees. The Brig's eldest son, Hugh, lamed during the Great War, stays at home to blunder along with the family timber firm and to coddle his wife, Sybil, who has incurable cancer; middle son, Edward, the womanizer, joins up, spending weekend leaves sexually abusing his beautifully budding daughter, Louise, while his wife, Villy, develops a crush on a conductor; and the last son, Rupert, goes missing in action right before his young wife, Zoe, has a baby. In addition, Howard focuses on the children of this crew, including: 17-year-old Louise, who attends acting school; Clary, Rupert's daughter by his late first wife, who nicely copes with her airheaded stepmother and fills her journal feverishly; and Polly, whose chief attribute is her goodness. By the end, Japan has drawn the US into the war; there's word of Rupert, possible romance for Clary, and as always, the Cazalets marching ever on. Comfortable, literate, but very slow lane.