A child's-eye view of sex and sexuality among Britain's elite that has a tone coy enough to turn off all but the most rabid Anglophile. This first novel opens in 1937 with 18-year-old narrator Amity Charlotte Augusta Savernake and her sister Claudia watching as their stepmother, Sonia, flees from the arts festival that she herself established at the family seat, Gunville Place. Amity, more commonly known as Amy, quickly flashes back to 1924 when her mother dies and her father marries Sonia, who had been his secretary, choosing her over Amy's beloved nanny. Social-climbing Sonia is delighted to become the Countess of Osmington, and Amy and the rest of her family are unkind to her. Then, in 1927, on a trip to London with Amy, Sonia runs into an old acquaintance, Rudi Longmire, who incites Sonia to organize the arts festival and throws their quiet country home into a tizzy. Youngsters Amy and Claudia (a few years her senior) are very curious about the facts of life (which they call ``doing sex''). By eavesdropping on the artists preparing for the festival, they learn a lot but understand little. Amy overhears one man telling another that, although he's a ``dedicated `so,' '' he's not blind to Sonia's charms. When Sonia acts in a play with some racy scenes, Amy reports, ``I went all hot, and Claudia gave me a great nudge. We had no doubt that this was exactly how SEX should be done.'' The high point for Amy is when her great aunt finally explains sex clearly and honestly. Stuffiness and back- stabbing run rampant among the guests and family. When Claudia asks desperately ``Is it going to be like this when we grow up, Amy? Having to mix with our own class however stupid and boring,'' it is all too easy to agree with her judgment. A hasty ending brings events up to date through the end of the war and ties storylines up neatly. Suffers from a bad case of the cutes.