Fascinating material is treated rather unevenly in this previously untranslated early novel by the Indonesian author of such impassioned political fiction as The Fugitive and his highly praised Buru Quartet. The potent narrative focuses on the gradual emotional awakening of an unnamed girl from an impoverished fishing village who is chosen as “principal consort” by a wealthy aristocrat, finds her fate subject to his whims even (in fact, especially) after she bears him a daughter, and never thereafter really fits back into the culture from which she had been uprooted. The novel has many vivid and moving moments and persuasive details about the life from which “the girl” has emerged. But it’s undone by Toer’s manipulations of story elements to criticize sociopolitical inequities and his habit of allowing characters to lecture one another, and us, relentlessly. A deeply flawed book that ought to have been a much better one.