A gently hortatory tale set in England's Yorkshire and various suburbs from the '40s to the '70s, dealing with the progress of two cousins, one domestic and home-loving, the other an energetic career woman. Along the way, this British author muses on the briefcase/bassinet decision, marriage, and on old ways, old places, old loyalties. Nell was raised by rough-hewn, hardworking Yorkshire farmer Uncle George and his wife Liz, along with cousins Derek and loveable Chrissie. As a child, she'd harbored a dream of a house of her own, to be shared with her widower father, an alcoholic. It was a dream much deferred, however, and then gone forever when her father died in London. Eventually Nell was taken under the doughty wing of her great-aunt Thorpe, a headmistress, and, excelling in her studies, was on her way to an academic career, determined never to marry. Meanwhile, Chrissie, married to kind engineer Jack, seems destined for domesticity and motherhood. (Her dream--to train as a nurse--was discouraged early on by her well-meaning parents.) So Nell, now a professor of sociology at a new university, is content with work and occasional affairs--until she meets and falls in love with writer Gregory. She feels, oddly, ``married,'' buys a house, thinks of a baby. Then into the lives of both women come disillusionment and a crumbling of certainties. Chrissie, her children grown, confronts the empty nest: ``If she could now achieve nothing, she was nothing.'' Also Jack, after decades of loyalty to his firm, is casually shed. Nell, also reeling from betrayal, joins Chrissie in hunting for some new source of hope. And amid the modern ticky-tacky replacing the venerable dwellings of Yorkshire, Nell does in fact find a kind of peace. A quiet tale, with considerable muttering about physical and political change, but with pleasant people who generate a mild interest.