The pain of love is the pain of being alive. It's a perpetual wound."" Thus one of two nameless characters who reel with relentless fixity through insatiable, successive acts of love. These insets serve as a counterpoint in a circular continuity where assorted people appear, fade, reappear--in a local pub, at the races, in a home or a hospital. Sometimes these incisions of ""the pain of love"" reduce to scar tissue in the failed acceptance of life as it is: the politicians Gliston and Percy facing the new unrest which seems to have the same old ""smell of violence""; or a father visiting his daughter who will never dance again; or elderly Miss King, a sapphic school teacher with one too many under the belt; or a scarecrow survivor of World War I; etc., etc. Structurally less orthodox than her earlier novels (The Microcosm; The Paradox Players with their existential game aboard a houseboat) this again asserts Miss Duffy as a writer of tremendous skills, on a par with and comparable to Edna O'Brien. Even if the total impact of the book is inevitably dissipated by this particular approach which intercepts rather than develops, these glancing moments do pinion and savage human experience with a startling intensity.