Isn't it hard that to make any life of our own we have to abandon so many other people?"" remarks Ellen with whom Claud is in love. This third novel of the ""Helena"" trilogy is set in postwar London. Helena, Claud's stepmother, who had slowly responded over the years to Claud's love for her, and who still possessed at times the ""ruthless thunder of youth,"" has died. Charmian, Claud's half sister, retreats, flares up and makes outsized gestures of accommodation within the tight confinement of a disastrous marriage. Her unstable husband is finally convicted in a swindle. And Claud is about to become emotionally involved with Ellen, caught as Claud is, in bondage to ""other people."" Their relationship heats, shifts, cools and serves as temporary absolution for indulgent mea culpas after the diversion of their lovers' games. Through the progress of their own affair, they test the boundaries of guilt and responsibility--that abandonment of self which claims the ego's strength and authority. During the early days of his attraction to Ellen, Claud feels, ""It is hard to restrain the romantic impulse. Once it is born it increases like a fungus overgrowing the rock of good sense."" Yet it is self-image built upon other lives that is the true obscurer and destroyer. At the close Ellen and Claud free themselves to marry as equals. As for the past--its passion is gone, but it leaves, in an autumnal fashion, not the scent of decay but ""flowers at the full."" Although the presence of Helena is missed, this is an ongoing tribute to Miss Johnson's tempered affirmation of compassion and good sense through a clear-eyed view of ruinous interdependencies.