Unique, brilliant, erratic, this first novel from Rebecca West in some twenty years, is certain of a challenging critical reception. Here is a sophisticated sort of Sanger's Circus tale, as she creates the Aubrey family in a shabby, down at heels London house. There is the father, who loses job after job, despite his brilliance as a journalist and pamphleteer, who makes ardent friendships and looses them through his gambling and irresponsibility. There is the mother, shabby, worried, not knowing how the bills are to be met, worshipping and eternally finding alibis for the improvident husband, and living in the hopes that two of her daughters (Mary and Rose, who tells the story) will be the professional concert pianists she had once hoped to be. There is the elder sister, still a schoolgirl, who has no real sense of music, but who is tricked into believing herself gifted by an idolizing teacher. And there is lovable small Richard Quin, who manages to smooth the ruffled waters in the tempestuous family. Their early days were spent in South Africa; then comes Scotland- home ground for the mother; then London, each step an acknowledgement of failure, a descent in the monetary scale. But always, against the minutiae of early century backgrounds, they maintain an unbroken pride, a generous sense of backing the right, a hospitality that embraces the underdog, an acceptance of the place of music and art and literature in daily living. There's a gift of make believe that overlays the drabness, and there's an intense drive in sustaining the goal -- whether politically or artistically- that lifts them above the common herd. Not always easy reading. Occasionally polemics intervene to turn the story aside. But the end result is rewarding, as Rebecca West's sparkle redeems the erratic process of her tale. An important Fall headliner.