A five-volume saga in one, of a muddled man-of-good-will in the panoramic manner inaugurated by Romain Rolland and Jules Romains, and despite the magnitude of the work, and ""the physical impressiveness of the volume""!, with incredibly little to recommend it. The book has neither the psychological insight nor stylistic beauty of the Rolland cycle, nor the amazing sense of changing patterns of the Romains books. It is long, imitative, unspirited and uninspiring, though exceedingly well-intentioned. The central figure is Jean, a bastard child of a simple Belgian peasant, who survives poverty, repeated, illnesses including smallpox, and an amazing number of thwarted loves. Educated by a well-meaning neighbor, he turns to teaching until the outbreak of the war, which he witnesses as a non-combatant. After the war he shifts to writing, reconstruction work through politics, and eventually this ""poor uprooted soul"" finds peace in a home of his own. It does not compare with any of the leading French era-portraitists, and the translation is inexcusably poor.