This is John Braine's fourth novel-- Braine whom you will remember went up as quickly as his anti-hero in Room at the Top, skidded with him on some of its slick surfacing in Life At, with The Vodi in an appropriately more nebulous area in between. This is his strongest book since his first: the background, a north country village in the moorlands, is depressingly drab; so is the attrition of the lives of many of the characters whom Braine manages to score with considerable sharpness. The story concerns one Vincent Dungarvan, thirty, a teacher, whose vigilant mother has greater ambitions for him-- he should enter the priesthood. Vincent in his private fantasies is also anxious to triumph over the devil in the flesh and become ""austere and withdrawn."" However the local priest recognizes Vincent's inclinations and echoes St. Paul's better to marry than to burn. Not marrying, but not burning, Vincent has an affair with a librarian, ""acceptably pretty"" but not marriageable; she is not a Catholic and divorced. He also has something going with his brassy sister-in-law. The final resolution/absolution of the problem is assisted by the author but accelerates the story itself. This particular theme, hovering between temptation and contrition, has of course had many exponents; but Braine, without really heightening or deepening it to a drama of great passion or conscience, does handle it with a certain urgency and sympathetic intelligence. It reads with ease.