Beyond its dolce far niente tenor, this sporadic story of several lives in conjunction through the years seems more purposeless than perhaps it is--rarely raising its voice or rather the voices of the alternating narrators. Antonio is an Italian boy and the friend of Harry Rambulcek during their childhood in Wersend, Ohio, which they will leave far behind. Antonio will become an importer of wines, cheeses, and manganese; Harry will have a career in films. Craft, one of the narrators and Antonio's accountant, picks up the narrative after Antonio marries the beautiful Helen and settles on the tip of Italy's toe--an island called Rimara. Jealously Antonio imputes the paternity of their second child, Antonia, to Harry; penitentially he feels responsible for more than one accidental death and Helen's; finally Harry's son completes the continuity. Howatch--this is his first novel--writes a tasteful enough prose but fails to differentiate any of it sufficiently to make it matter, now or later.