A novel about a German family, before, during and after the war, is told mostly in free-form retrospect. Most of the family's memories are personal, sketchy, allusive and are bounced around and repeated from one character's viewpoint to another's, so that the plot indeed is as haphazard and repetitive as a game of billiards, and as hard to follow. Basically there is old Faehmel, an architect who made good on his first building and thereupon married a rich girl, Johanna. Marriage freed Johanna, but keeping to her ideals during the war has put her in a sanitarium. One of her sons went over to the strong German side; another, Robert, directed by an insane general and by his hatred and suffering of good Germans, blew up the abbey his father had designed. By the close, at old Faehmel's birthday party, most of the family has suspected this and Johanna, in long-smoldering wrath, shoots and wounds a nameless official.... As seen through the eyes of one family, the book is a statement of the confusion of angers, loyalties and griefs of a country where the ideals of one generation- along with the buildings- are blown up by the next, where nothing but personal and family relations endure, and the future (represented by an adopted bellboy) can only be summarily grafted on to the wreck of the past. It has a -like weight and seriousness, but is overlong, and often does not make its serious meanings entirely clear except in the total effect.