Ivy Compton-Burnett's eighteenth novel is very true to the pattern she has established with such brilliance: again the family is the miniature of a larger world in which self-interest is the central motive; she bares the bloodless infighting of a Victorian household where attachments between the generations are subtly destructive and belie the appearance of obeisance and acceptance; the servants voice their opinions in the background, and the children are seen, very much heard and often outrageously outspoken. In this case the story concerns the five motherless children of Ninian Middleton, his adopted brother, Hugo, and his mother, Selina, a forceful figure, as is the eldest daughter, Lavinia. Ninian plans to give them a stepmother, a Mrs. Chilton, who at first finds him too encumbered, and then relents, in spite of Lavinia's attempted obstruction of the marriage; there is a question of a will, as Ninian's long not-seen brother returns home to die, and further conflict at the death of Selina, as well as over Lavinia's plans to wed Hugo.... Once again the wholly conversational technique, a special language of quips, epigrams and riddles which is also an intellectual sport, gives this its character and appeal for her established coterie. For many she is still a taste to be acquired. For others, virtually a cult.