A penetrating portrait of the old order in Austria of the years 1913-14 -- social, political, family history of the patrician Relthers, newspaper owners and influential residents of Prague. The author's earlier books (The Dawn Breaks -- DSP 1941, and The Firing Squad -- Knopf 1944) dealt with a later period. This goes back to the cumulative steps leading to the last war, the Balkan troubles, uncertain peace, international cross purposes, the crumbling of Empire within and without. As the descent into the maelstrom quickens, the Relthers are subtly delineated: -- Alexander, head of the clan, sensing change and unrest, but more pertinently concerned with his present love; Caroline, unbending snob; the granddaughters, Wally, who pursues sex as determinedly as her cousin, Adrienne, pursues the teachings of a young group of socialists; Poldi, the nephew, to whom cooking is of more importance than a military career; his unworldly son Max and his escapist wife; his colorless daughter, Ottilie and her hypocritical husband ... They progress in their little worlds as footnotes against the incidents and events that unfold the inevitability of war, and in their diverse ways express the diverse attitudes and expressions of their country. A perceptive book, but not widely popular.