This book begins during the Spanish Civil War when Ramon is six years old. His father, a gentle professor, is a political prisoner and his family is desperately poor, battered by the brutalities of war. Only the amoral eldest son has prospered as a black marketeer and a Falangist. Ramon struggles, mostly on his own, for an education in the appalling Church-and-State ridden schools. This part of the book is alive with vivid scenes and changes of mood; a tough sense of humor transforms lesser tribulations (air raids, hunger, etc.) into near-satire, and compassion softens many of the tragic incidents. But after Ramon and his friends leave the University, the book changes abruptly-- there is no work, no future. The once hopeful, self-sufficient boy ends as a self-pitying man and the book closes with a violent, angry view of the miseries of present day Spain.... A youthfully bitter, fierce, volatile and often striking novel.