A mild first novel about a young working, class English woman facing a dilemma familiar to American readers--whether or not to have an abortion, and how to deal with the emotional reverberations set in motion by a decision that seems bad either way. Irene Tanner is a bright, reclusive Oxford University scholarship student when she begins a love affair that isn't particularly ardent but that Irene hopes will remove her forever from the realm of the only educated women she has known--fussy spinster schoolteachers and state-trained maiden aunts. Instead it places her in her mother's realm: alone, she has to decide whether to marry and relinquish her ambitions to become a poet or sacrifice her ""moral passion"" by having an abortion. Along the way, Grossman leads us through the thousand unhappinesses and injustices of Irene's post WW II childhood: the terror of visiting neighborhood bomb craters with a popular sister who torments her with threats; the meanness of classmates toward a bright, unusual child; the affectional flightiness of her mother, pinched by penury, and the grim silence of her father, whose happiest days seem to have been spent far from the family, at war; and the fear and difficulty with which Irene develops an identity different and strong. Result: Irene has the abortion. The decision isn't shocking, although Grossman's description of the back-alley procedure Irene undergoes is, and is a powerful reminder of what illegal abortion means. Still, most readers will find the novel's theme familiar, its execution a little slapdash and its ""terms"" nothing new.