Alexander MacDonald, a successful (good second rate) Canadian painter goes to the small town of Barringford, Nova Scotia, drawn there to the childhood home of his father, now dead, still tenanted by two very elderly great aunts and an equally young cousin, Ellen. During the summer there he tries to work out his still troubled memories of his father, a failure in the worldly sense, whose original rejection had been in this same house. He also paints- his two greatest paintings- all in white- ""the color of absolute joy,"" heroic anti-paintings, and they are partly inspired by the dual attraction he feels for Ellen, although he is still very much in love with his wife Madeleine. It is Madeleine however who realizes that it is important for him to leave, who pulls him back to her world- his world, partially reconciled.... There's not too much definition to any of this but the portrait of an artist is agreeable enough and the shoptalk is certainly the best part of the book. And except for the imperative (or is it really?) sex scene with some purple flesh tones, it's a casual first novel.