With the exception of A Male Child (1957), Paul Scott's novels have had a Far Eastern background. Atmosphere was much a part of his memory-misted The Birds of Paradise and it is, if differently, just as prevalent in this new book which moves from London to its environs. Here the experiences of a number of people over a number of years are concentrated in a day and a night. They are recorded in alternating snatches of conversations, at parties, in pubs, on the phone; or transcribed on the tape recorder of an aging woman or through the deathbed reveries of another. In concentric circles, they confine the lives of one disparate family- the Spruces; George Lisle-Spruce, a frayed figure, without his wife or a job; his brother Tim, now asking for the repayment of an old debt in order to finance the birth of an illegitimate grandchild; a much younger brother more successfully involved in television and an affair; and finally Gillian, Tim's daughter, ""basically existentialist"" or offhand about her pregnancy. Throughout money is an insistent theme, not as an incentive but as a niggling necessity; existence as well as morality is shaped by it... Paul Scott is a versatile writer who moves easily from urbane comedy to the implied tragedy of loneliness and uselessness. His modern montage is acutely observed and it has both subtlety and style.