In spite of a wry, frank cheerfulness...or possibly because of it... this is a remarkably depressing book about middle and old age. It begins and ends with a funeral; in between, a number of people in their mid-forties, who know each other and themselves much too well, work out the remaining threads of their lives under the added awareness left them by the first funeral, that of Medusa Nash. She turns her friends slowly to the stone of old age; as reminder, she leaves her half-paralyzed husband, Harold, who drifts through the rest of the book with his ageing, mannish, school-teacher sister, who is trying to find one of the group who will take him in. These include Lily Dewhurst, an amusing, relaxed matron of forty-five, who- after visiting her dying mother- begins her first and last affair with the husband of the bitchy, still beautiful Jayne, but returns to her own husband, John, when he has a prostate operation; and Cora, a feminist with a houseful of fecund animals, an idiot daughter and an ageing mother, whom she shuns, and who loses her husband first to a young girl, then to suicide. But it is Betty, a gutty, independent scultress, who after losing the latest of her young lovers and deciding to marry an old, alcoholic friend, who takes in Harold, who once rejected her. Behind these people still living out the round of a life of cocktail parties and affairs, the aged, and the problems of ageing flesh, dance macabrely. Some tenderness and humor do little to relieve a profound sense of truth, distaste and dismay.