The bird of paradise, which cannot be kept captive alive and can only be observed closely when dead, hovers symbolically over this reassessment of a life by William Conway, 41, emotionally neutered, divorced, and now spending a ""sabbatical"" on a volcanic island. There are visually vivid sequences of his childhood in India and, against the splendor or this setting, memories of his early years in the Residency, of visits to the Maharajah's palace, of a tiger hunt, of Krish, a first friend, and Dora- a friend affection. Always kept at a distance by his father, he attempts but fails to reach him in later years. There is no greater warmth in his marriage to Annie, based on lust rather than love, which ends in equalid adultery. The war, and a long internment in a Japanese concentration camp, contribute to his alienation, and he returns later to India to ""bury his dead"", prior to the year now on Manoba which occasions thin review of his life in the hope of finding a new direction for it.... The exotic excitement of the background here, the often exceptional quality of the writing, will perhaps compensate for the lack of mobility since Conway's contemplative reconnaissance may be too subdued to both tempo and tone for the general reader.