Frame's mercilessly acute yet pitying focus on the 1963 journey to disaster of a hate-and-fear-wracked British couple, through a bleak European landscape, portrays not only the desolation of their unwanted 10-year-old daughter, but the very contemporary tragedy of a postwar generation hungry for wealth and status--""so greedy to save themselves from the world they grew up in.'From an adult perspective, Annoele Tomlinson rummages back through the ""patchwork, shadow show, guesswork"" of history as she remembers the child she was, the times, and her family of three, for whom moments of happiness together were few and as brief as sparks from an acetylene torch. Beautiful Laura and diplomat husband Simon had met at the Ritz, dined like angels, and were both incapable of love. From a humble Dorset vicarage where ""you get trapped. You can't see to anywhere else,"" exquisite Laura (""all hauteur and Worth perfume"") had, to Annoele's eyes, a most marvelous dignity when she was at her angriest, cold and stern. Father Simon, with his ""blue Viking eyes like ice floes,"" dutifully did what fathers were supposed to do--but at a distance. Simon is about to sell his soul, along with military secrets, to the Eastern Bloc. It's on their journey through Prague, Vienna and Germany--the loud bickering in hotels, the terrible dining-room scenes, shouted exchanges of lacerating insults--that the disregarded child will realize that she was merely ""a kind of talisman to protect their privacy, which was what they really loved best in the end."" There is a terrifying car ride into Bavaria, frantic with speed and hate (while the radio broadcasts love songs); a night of violence in which Laura's beauty is destroyed (along with her daughter's only reason to forgive her); and then the final obliteration of two people who--in England's murky, pea-soup days of unfulfilled promises after the war--viewed themselves in the mirrors of the Ritz and, wooed by how splendid they looked together, ""expected better than they had."" An incisive study of two people encapsulated in a hopeless rictus of greed in a mad trip to nowhere, with an atmosphere that chills to the bone.