A measured, graceful novel in which the crises faced by an extended upperclass Italian family swirl up here and there among discussions about the arts and politics. Corinna Festa, wife of Emilio (from whom she is temporarily separated) and mother of twin teenage boys, is acutely aware of the shadows gathering on what she has always considered a secure home. She discovers that her adored father, Professor Tiberio, had a mistress. She discovers that her good friend Gerald (with whose help she's been writing a treatise on Western literature) has drawn another friend's son into a homosexual episode. (Gerald, realizing that this has been revealed, commits suicide.) But the most dismaying agent of the abrupt change in Corinna's direction is Daphne, the American-educated daughter of Corinna's old chum Oriana; open, brutally direct, with that ""strange empty maturity,"" Daphne stays at Corinna's home, admits to selling drugs, admits that it was she who informed Gerald that his shameful secret was known. Like a wildly sweeping searchlight, Daphne seems to reach into everyone's life. She has even slept with Corinna's lover Demetrio. So, in the light of all these revelations, Corinna re-examines her family role: was the older generation wise to hide truths in the interests of a stable family? Angry, Corinna forces Daphne to return home, but in spite of an apparently serene reconciliation with Emilio, she wonders whether she really envies Daphne's ""staggering freedom of youth, selfishness, blind irresponsibility."" In spite of the inherent angst, a quiet and leisurely probe of traditional European family values.