Britain's answer, sort of, to The Women's Room--and, despite some unfamiliar slang and some mildly puzzling social distinctions, the female stormy weather steams through as clearly as in the U.S. version. Conlon traces three women--Joanna, Madeleine, and Beatrice--from high school to their thirties, with the trio surviving somehow through ties of love and friendship. Joanna is the daughter of two busy doctors, her lively intelligence absorbed in various marching societies for social justice. ""Poor Madeleine"" is a scholarship student, the only child of a wasting, sacrificing working-class mother. And Beatrice is the beauty--the child of handsome, wealthy, lustily sparring and unloving parents. Floundering once out of school, Beatrice becomes pregnant, marries David, and will eventually produce four sons. Joanna will become a scholar with a cool marriage to a doctor. Madeleine sheds her cherished college career for alcoholic, wife-beating Desmond, who can never commit himself to the work needed to make his big dreams come true. All the marriages are doomed, of course, and there'll even be some betrayals among the threesome (Beatrice has an affair with Madeleine's Desmond). But eventually the friends will rescue each other, the mothers and kids (and one blossoming grandmother) pulling together for a bright future. No deeper or richer than its U.S. counterparts, perhaps--but it is less message-y and a bit less enervating.