The idle rich and the miserable poor, both more dead than alive, more evil than good--it is an old formula, but still prevalent enough in South America to provide contemporary fictional material, this time in Chile. Don Andres is a 53-year-old bachelor (rich, dead and idle), his grandmother, a senile nonogenarian, but still alive somehow in her madness. Enter the poor: the servant Estela, young and pretty, desired by don Andres in a late spurt of vitality, but won by Mario, a boy of her own class, who will soon be corrupted by poverty. Carried along to the end on a thin line of narrative interest, Estela becomes pregnant, Mario a thief, Andres an even more futile old man, and finally, the grandmother lets go her hold on them all, but only after the other servants crown her a saint in a mock and mocking ceremony. Moral No one is redeemed, madness comes closest to truth. The novel is simply not well enough written to make its values or its plot hold for an audience unacquainted with Chilean social stigmas and mores.