Howker, author of the critically acclaimed Badger on the Barge and The Nature of the Beast, has written another glowing novel. Set in the rural England of 1901, it is the tale of 12-year-old Isaac, struggling with the unwanted burdens that fall to him when his older brother, the favorite of the family, dies suddenly. Isaac, who had ""had some secret fancy notions about what [he] was going to do with [his] life,"" is forced to quit school and help his stern, occasionally violent, father run the family business. But luck of some sort seems to be on his side, and in the end he sees a way out. Only the most sophisticated of readers will appreciate Howker's tale. The pace is leisurely, and Isaac narrates in the British dialect of his region and day, making the story tough going for the average American reader. But those who are up to it will find writing that is remarkably descriptive and compelling: the sounds of a quiet stable--""shod hoofs scraping on the flagstones. Soft spluddery thumps of dung. Deep-chested gentlemanly snorts."" Isaac Campion, the character, is memorable; the novel is unforgettable.