This is an amazing first novel, invigorating both mentally and emotionally, discerning and essentially very civilized. Monsarrat is a suave writer, at home in every milieu, serious but never truculent in his convictions, and with an accomplished, biting prose style. This is the story of Marcus Hendryks, to the manner born, typical of the indolent, wastrel jeunesse dorce, fine wines and women. The book opens when Marcus is at Cambridge, where he learns of his father's death and the total bankruptcy of the estate. Forced to the slums of London, he comes face to face with reality. ""These are your surroundings: war, and political passion, and social injustice, and the loudest shouting for the basest cause...This is the schoolroom: hatred, mistrust and greed are its furnishings."" Before long he becomes immersed in the Communist faith -- puts it to the test in fighting in Spain, where he learns that the brutality and violence of war accomplish little. The last third of the book deals with the turning tide, as he falls in love with a young painter, achieves a certain recognition as a writer, and glimpses the way to a better life, as war makes its threat again. There is none of the hotheaded, antagonizing quality of most of the left-to-red briefs, even when that seems to be the way he is tending. It is a well thoughtout, sincerely felt book, appealing to both heart and mind. And consistently good reading.