The opening installment, first published in England in 1979, of a generational trilogy about the luckless Armstrong family of Georgetown by Guyanese writer Heath. From the earliest days of their courtship in 1922, Sonny Armstrong dominates his gentle wife Gladys, whose parents and two sisters quietly cut her off after their marriage--except for a single visit, shortly after their daughter Genetha is born, by Gladys's oldest sister Deborah, which leads only to a quarrel and deeper estrangement. Thrown back on their own family--soon including son Boyie, and their unpaid servants Esther and Marion--Armstrong and his wife sink into ever deeper domestic misery. When his dying father leaves Armstrong's sister most of his property, Armstrong, despondent at being left a mere postal clerk, plots to get his sister's two houses; Marion's intimacy with both partners--she has become Gladys's confidant and Armstrong's lover--leads to the dismissal of Esther; and the illness and death of Armstrong's friend B.A. seems only the necessary blood-sacrifice to his friendship with cautiously licentious Doc. Husband and wife alike play out their roles of quiet desperation as if in a dream that denies what they take to be their true natures- -until Gladys realizes that ``separation from her husband was unthinkable, and when he fell into the abyss the chain that bound their lives would drag her with him.'' Heath, who writes of elemental passions like a minimalist D. H. Lawrence, has fashioned a novel as violent in its suppressed action as his US debut novel, The Murderer (p. 10). One wonders how much hope the sequels can offer the younger Armstrongs.