A fragile first novel has something of the perishable hothouse atmosphere suggested by the title- and it encloses a world both young and old, present and past. Here Claire Peachey, once beautiful, holds an audience to the granddaughter of the man she had once loved, and while Imogen, nine, is as eager as the reader to relive the faded romance the rather curious confidences Mrs. Peachey makes are only occasional revelations---unresolved relationships are left incomplete, and what is best remembered is the exotic, languorous prettiness of a garden in summer, and a greenhouse, where time is momentarily stayed. While Imogen gets only snatches of the Italian idyll many years ago of Mrs. Peachey and her grandfather, she also is permitted to listen in on discordant facets of her relationship with her son, Robin, whose failure is also hers and one she can no longer escape. And the interlude ends as war (1939) is declared, as her grandfather comes to take her home, and as she returns knowing only that ""a feeling of goodness had gone out of her""..... It is, all in all, a rather tantalizing book, where subtlety is both a virtue and a handicap, an invitation and a withdrawal. Miss Mavor is however a writer of taste and talent- once the indirection of her technique is accepted.