The time was 1940, the second year of war for England. The place was Oxford University, a secure and timeless zone in spite of the war. It was still a rather cruel change for a poor boy to make. John Kemp wanted to be his roommate, Christopher Warner. Nothing in John Kemp's blue collar background had prepared him for the brutish insensitivity that he mistook for assurance. After overhearing what Warner really thought of him, Kemp went into a sort of social shell shock. During this period, he invented a younger sister, Jill. He made up a complete life story, wrote a diary for her and sent letters to himself from her. The larger aims of the story -- to record a special time and place -- never quite come through, but in the scenes of social disaster, Mr. Larkin handles his characters and their dialogue with painful precision and dissects attitudes especially real for this age group.