It starts... ""Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions"". It continues with the story of a group of girls in London's May of Teck Club which existed for ""the Pecuniary Convenience and Social Protection of Ladies of Slender Means below the age of Thirty years..."". It ends all too quickly. All of Muriel Spark's novels (Memento Mori, The Bachelors and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) are short and all are significant. This is the second novel of the season by an outstanding woman writer to deal with the upper middle class lives and mores of the distaff side of society with insight and pointed realism. Mary McCarthy's The Group (1963, p. 615) handled the American scene in the '30's. Mrs. Spark's setting is exhausted London between V-E Day and V-J Day in 1945. In contrast to the surrounding death and destruction is the vigor and gaiety of the young women of the residence club. The contrasts are controlled and revealing: the desolation of London scenes against the irrepressible urge to live and love that leads to farcical arrangements and rendezvous. The recognition of death as a part of life, the underlying, religious tensions and beliefs of the May of Teck's memorable residents relates this novel to the earlier books. The central link however between this and the others is the strength of a gifted story-teller- undiminished in power.