How a South Wales family adapts to seismic changes in British society--from the turn of the century into the 1920's--while trying to make sense of a troubling world. Seasoned novelist Newby (Leaning in the Wind, 1988, etc.) delivers complex central characters, free of clichÃ‰: Charles White, self-made construction entrepreneur, and the woman he loves and marries, Hannah. Although Charles is a freethinker immersed in Nietzsche, he clearly is moved by strong spiritual imperatives. Hannah, a Baptist-reared convert to a cult religion, is not without common sense. They jog along trustingly together in their long marriage, although their passion dulls and their thinking diverges. A terrible family tragedy nearly breaks them, but they are survivors. Newby is particularly skilled at subtly dramatizing the changing impact of the Great War, wholeheartedly welcomed at first-then slowly, inexorably going wrong, becoming a fault line in history beyond which nihilism reared up like an iceberg. But the novel doesn't become an earnest, schoolmasterly trudge through historic events, since these are seen only as registered on Newby's lively, complex characters. Although dark matters are dealt with--chief among them being the painful rifts between parents and children--humor is one of the book's prominent strands. Newby's touch is light and sure throughout. He is a craftsman reworking familiar materials rather than a breaker of new ground, and there is sometimes a feeling he is writing about people at a considerable distance from himself. But he gets the reader to care about them. Well-told story focusing on decent, believable people and the life they forge despite personal and historic tragedies.