This is a dry, wry account of a ne'er-do-well's growing up. Madame Bonhomme, recently widowed, gently sinks into a sleep of despair when Prosper, a young handyman, is sent to help her. Prosper is a great hand with girls and gardens, and, after saving Madame's life, keeps an impersonal eye on her. But one evening, realizing the imposibility of his love for a childhood friend, he flies blindly to the farm and rapes Madame. An affair begins between the shy, respectable woman and the surly boy, and she becomes pregnant. First overjoyed, then thinking of her respectability, she makes a pathetic attempt to disguise, as an accident, her suicide. In the scandal which ensues, Prosper is arrested and later freed- but the experience matures him. Eventually, after a brusque courtship, he marries a girl as angry at the world as he and they arrive together at a rough, wordless love and hope for the future. Delicacy, humor and some of Prosper's angry reluctance mark the prose- and the novel is, on the whole, for rather special tastes.