This English author is one of a handful of historical novelists who view major events of the past (here, early 19th-century London) as they were quite probably viewed by the general public at the time--as occasional distractions, irritants, or amusements that touched lives only in ripples. For instance, when successful lawyer Thomas Kelleway and three of his four children dutifully squeeze in among their own affluent crowd to watch, bemused and then astonished, the coronation procession of ballooning George IV and Queen Caroline's attempt to crash the Abbey, Thomas' daughter Caroline faints. She is pregnant, single, and intends to remain so. Later, painter William, who leans towards Whiggery and Reform, lands in gaol after a demonstration but rebounds to become a ""fashionable peacock"" who designs ""Gothik"" fantasies--such as the garden extravaganza for a mill owner who is shot by a protesting member of the ""Combinations"" labor union. And conservative brother Henry, in and out of love with women other than his wife, makes his name, incongruously, by defending the Combination's other lawbreakers. Nor should we forget Colonial Army John, who runs off with the jewels of his adored, dead Burmese mistress and arrives home via Virginia, with two illegitimate children as evidence of a Virginian surcease from sorrow. Hardly a predictable lot, these Kelleways, and even after exasperated Thomas dies, having just learned that his proud ship Thomas K has landed him in a swindle, you will care very much what happens to them. A thoroughly satisfying, intelligent, and richly atmospheric novel of generous scope.