In contrast with her recent first novel (The L-Shaped Room), whose sordid content occasioned both dubious reviews and a movie version, here this young British author refurbishes a proverbial plot--the love trials of a simple, decorous secretary and her intellectual writer-boss--with other familiar story fragments--quests for masculine independence, Jewish identity, and literary aplomb. Martha Fletcher recounts her growing fascination and eventual love for Aaron Franks, an embryonic--and tortured--literary genius who is dominated by his maiden sister--the wealthy, waspish villain of the piece. Unable to salvage his self-esteem as a man or as a writer, under her iron tutelage, Aaron takes his now-beloved, Christian helpmate to Israel and a kibbutz called Bet Hatikvah (House of Hope). Aaron then narrates (from a suspiciously Martha-like viewpoint) their stark, laborious communal existence, dwelling upon his inability and her facility for accommodating to it. After six months they retreat to the city, but Martha returns to the kibbutz to have their child, leaving Aaron alone for a time with renewed determination to face an as yet unresolved, unwritten future. Martha's diary like account of London artists in truer, and more interesting, writing; the Israel jaunt, less so. In enlightened, feminine fiction.