A meandering, occasionally sprightly, more often tedious novel of Victorian England which will sell better than otherwise because of Book of the Month selection. Frankly I found it overlong, diffuse, and insufficiently decorated with period trimmings to qualify as top drawer in that category. The Victorian characteristics are sustained, though the story spans four wars -- the Crimean War, the Boer War and two World Wars, all viewed through the observant eyes of Sarah Undridge, need Sarah Rainborough, in a backward look over close to a hundred years. The significance of the title lies in the grim realities of the years following the promise of peace in the Crystal Palace, which small Sarah saw at three. ""You could see the Crystal Palace if it wasn't for the houses in between"". The story pictures a way of life that is no more. It tells -- from the carriage and top hat level a story that reaches down to the molls and gangsters of those days, that embraces London and the country life, and that branches out into the family tree, legitimate and bastard. Plenty of incident, a broad sweep of canvas, a large cast of characters -- but somehow for this reader it never quite jelled into a realistic portrait of the times.