A pleasing novel of family manners by the then 17-year-old winner of Britain's Authors' Club Award for the best first novel of 1982. The time and place are Edwardian Bloomsbury. The theme, briefly put, is that generations may live and die but elements of character and temperament recur, especially among the descendants of Diana Molloy, a lusty, bohemian Anglo-Irish kept woman who maintains an open house for minor literary figures in Red Lion Square at the turn of the century. Diana's daughter Alice, who is 14 in 1912 when Diana dies of tuberculosis, at first appears waiflike, abstracted and totally unlike her mother. But as she grows to adulthood and then to early middle age, she takes up painting and manages to shrug off just about every conventional demand made on her, including fidelity to marriage and attention to child raising. And she teaches her children to do the same. Overall: a host of lively characters, most of them struggling artists, and a few fine set pieces that evoke the time and place.