A dynastic novel, of extensive proportions, which concerns an overwhelmingly sadistic minister, Dr. Clare Ellenden, president of a girls' college (which is suspiciously like Badeliffe) and his ruthless destruction of the lives around him until he is at last broken by events motivated by the hapless family members he has relentlessly victimized. Of the twelve persons with whom the book is concerned at the outset, three sons die unhappy deaths, two grandson's violent deaths, and the two sons' wives meet early deaths through suspect but convenient illnesses. Over and above these vital statistics, the story concerns Dr. Ellenden's frenzy to perpetuate the Ellenden name. His firstborn dies; his second son is a conscientious objector and unworthy; and it is his granddaughter Elizabeth, ""the flower of light"" who ironically perverts his hope for the future and causes his downfall...For an asulduous audience, assiduous to the point of 770 pages, which will find that its magnitude permits no latitude of reading interest or literary quality. The criterion seems to be endurance- the author's- and yours.