A lifework, posthumously published, this is a traditional novel, leisurely, expansive, openly sentimental, and in the beginning, unremarkable. Tufted with detail, the early scenes of family and school life deal in the small change of common experience; still familiarity can be a valuable currency. And as the book goes on to parallel Martin Reilly's troubled youth with the equally troubled Ireland of 1910 to 1920, it is just the comfortable, or traditional, virtues (the first affections and partisan attachments) which provide a necessary, finite framework. Martin is an orphan, and the ushed references to his parents add to his uneasiness in the household of an aunt and uncle. Theirs is a solicitous custody; so is that of the Church although Martin's schooling away under the Fathers will lead to his lapsed Catholicism and later bitter anticlericalism. He is exposed to several divisive influences. Through his fondness for the Vincents, another adoptive family, and Norman, his closest friend at school, he experiences all the entrenched antagonisms, Protestant versus Catholic, English versus Irish, as well as some of the lesser snobberies of class. By the second half of the ook, when Martin falls in love, and becomes an even more passionate Sinn Feiner, the story is carried by the fury of the Bad Times with its recalcitrance and heroism. The revanchist terror spreads from Dublin to the villages; the landmarks of Martin's youth are gutted one by one; and the desolate scenes ending with Norman's death achieve real magnitude... This is in a sense an unoriginal novel; the time and the place and the state of mind have been well mapped-- there are familiar checkpoints from Joyce's Portrait on. Still it is a cumulatively and ultimately impressive book which speaks with probity, universality and eloquence.