A thoroughly attractive first novel which if decorative in its detail of place (Rome and Capri, after the war), is also persuasive and often affecting. In a drama played out on two levels, this tells of Francesca Milroy, thirty and quite beautiful, as she returns to Italy, where she was born, as a civilian employee, becomes the guardian of her war-orphaned niece, Vittoria, just fourteen. Serene, composed, controlled, Francesca offers both love and a first security to Vittoria who had only known the unregulated emotionalism of her mother, an opera singer, the dislocation of war. It is Vittoria who first notices her aunt's attraction to Jean-Claude, once of the maquis, and inflammable in her responses, Vittoria shuts herself off, eventually runs away with some black market youngsters. And it is the search for the child that eventually brings Francesca and Jean-Claude together... The fresh touch here, which is also a smooth one, the contrasting charms of these three give this a special appeal which should also be a very general one in quality feminine fiction.