The title will to a degree define the rather distant and detached stance from which this novel is written, actually observed by a nameless narrator through the experiences of four of his friends. Whereas Pryce-Jones' last novel, Sands of Summer, dealt with the lower clarsses, this moves up a little in station and while not as deliberately depressing, is just as deliberately disengaged. The novel serves actually as a spot check of places and points of view in the '50's--from a Jesuit school to Cambridge to the army, from France to Vienna to the Hungarian Revolution where there is a faint flurry of activity. Nicholas, one of the four, a scrounger, mover and fixer is killed 'with heroic (?) unconcern for his life. Then there are the other three: Robert de Courville, an anti-Soviet Marxist with a contempt for easy privilege and love; Charles, the staunch Conservative (""He's what's been wrong with the last two hundred years"") who becomes a manual laborer, and (reversing positions) Reggie, who works his way up. While concerned really with the political-social realities of the times, all of this dims to a degree through the many set scenes which frame the opinions articulated and the narrator himself, elsewhere tagged as ""alienated,"" is more properly just unattached. Mr. Pryee-Jones is a very civilized writer but somehow never manages to get past the surfaces and views he mirrors so well. ""One has to be involved to get into active human processes"" as one of his characters observes. An object lesson and a summation.