The self-conscious, not-very-interesting correspondence between two young women college friends, separated for ten years (1953-64)after marriage to foreign husbands--and now presented as a social document (a ""truly fresh illumination of the female psyche""). Pat marries Philip, an unemotional English doctor who takes her to Tanganyika; Joyce marries Hans, an overbearing German artist whose difficulty finding work leaves them struggling financially. Both. women have intellectual pretensions, yet fully believe in traditional marriage', and their letters dwell on this conflict (""I've had no spiritual life for so long that I feel more like an envelope than a person""). Both want children and have them after overcoming an unusual number of difficulties: miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth. Pat, with four servants and a status-conscious husband, becomes a smug English matron: ""I've vowed to myself that wherever we go to live after Africa, I'll keep up the same standards. I owe it to Philip."" Joyce contends with illness, poverty, and the effort to be a subservient wife: ""I want, much more now, even than writing for myself, to nourish a marriage and home such as will give him the sustenance he needs."" Their early letters exude cheeriness (""How lucky you and I are with our full, rich and varied lives"") despite signs of trouble: Pat's drinking and complaints of Philip's coldness, Joyce's depressions and. fears of Hans' adultery. Yet despite their claims to ""existentially KNOW"" each other, neither really picks up the other's clues. Later, the marriages fall apart so completely that the truth can no longer be hidden; both women have affairs, and cope as best they can with their hopeless marriages rather than seek divorce. (The divorces come in the epilogue.) Unconvincing and repetitive overall--and at its worst, bathetic: ""How to tell you, now that my rusty, unpracticed pen no longer facilely spins out the phrases with ease, how to tell you how my heart aches for you.