Award-winning British writer Bailey's third novel to be published in the US (At the Jerusalem, 1967; Trespasses, 1971), and a handsome if tortured effort it is, being the memoir of one Gabriel Harvey, a youth unwisely dew, ted to his runaway mother, saddled with a pompous, ranting father, of uncertain sexuality, careerless, affectionless--in sum, a solitary observer of life. Gabriel becomes the sad fellow he is when his mother disappears, having decided to give herself a well-deserved vacation from her overbearing spouse, Oswald Harvey. She never returns and Gabriel suffers for it, going through a painful period of adolescent bed-wetting (which wins him the name ""Piss-a-bed,"" coined by ""daddykins""). He leaves home to take menial jobs in a post office and an old-folks' home, jobs enriched by the treasure trove of eccentrics he meets, among them a White Russian countess and an Indian atheist named Mr. Nazareth: and then Gabriel writes a book on religious poseurs that becomes a lucrative rock musical. Only years later, after his father's death, does he learn that Oswald actually protected him from knowing the worst about his mother, and that, therefore, his father was perhaps not such a bad sort after all. Gabriel's psychological passage from turmoil to enlightenment is familiar territory, but it is nonetheless peopled by a rich cast; Bailey has a true, well-nigh Dickensian gift for characterization and an ability to write roundly entertaining comic monologues.