A morbid novel which would be more moving if it were less mannered and if the characters lived other than to move through the pattern of the plot. As it is, one reads of successive emotional distortions with detachment. The place is Italy, chiefly in Rome; the period spans the First World War and the Ethiopian campaign. The storyteller was an abandoned waif, adopted by a prosperous merchant, into whose family he brought disintegration. The mother becomes a nymphomaniac; the father loses his money and takes to drink; the boy himself, at fourteen, seduces the couple's sixteen year old daughter, and when he gets her with child, flees to Tome to become gigolo in a bawdy house. So it goes. Eventually he catches up with his foster sister who has been driven to prostitution, and who- when she dies- leaves another's illegitimate child to him to rear. He reforms, earns a living as ghostwriter for an influential Fascist, and raises the girl in innocence and purity. Then the village where they live is taken over by Moroccan troops, his foster child is brutally raped and crippled. And he puts a bullet through her head. Finis...This we think can be skipped.