I offer you first/ An intimate contemplation of deadly old age/ Which is not included in the syllabus/ of any college.."" So, in a readable and indeed rather hypnotic mixture of conversational, stately blank verse, a fictional Englishman recollects his childhood in this long poem-novel. Like Tristram Shandy, the book digresses and freely associates among its facts. Old Abberville recalls his childhood; playing with cousins in old English manor houses; the troubled relationship between his parents; his gradual and increasingly bitter estrangement from his mother; a summer in the country; the desperate heroism and humiliation of school days; and an overall view of an England now gone. But although some of these facts are presented in the form of a novel, in individual scenes, they are turned, appraised, and made to yield their sensuous and poetic meanings- or even, in the prose passages, proved false. Not only life, death and love but the tricky processes of memory itself are examined. The book is perhaps a trifle long and repetitive, but its narrative use of poetry is quite interesting and generally successful. It leaves a cumulative sense of richness and dignity, and it is a thoughtful way of viewing a life.