A deep dip into the tarnished tradition of the unreconstructed South of Louisiana. Henry Nelson, cousin to the aristocratic Richardsons, follows the story of their glory -- and decline -- and in so doing reveals himself as a loyal, ever protecting and devoted relation -- if at last waking to doubt. These are the days of raging wait, when ""leukemia of the soul"" is fed by the frustrations inherent in the social and economic life. It is Caroline on whom devolves the responsibility not only of upholding family pride and custom but of guiding and supporting her two brothers, Percy and Byron; who marries intelligent, all animal, Jim Conway, frowned on by the family, but marked for wealth and fame; who through inertia absorbs Jim's bid for freedom with his money and chance in politics; who as a finale binds him to her when his plans blow up on a wave of scandal and his wealth is dissipated in the crash. Henry tells this in the first person and leaves nothing -- of Percy's degradation via vicious Gus and liquor. Byron's via bloated self-esteem, Caroline's via cancerous self-righteousness -- out of the picture which limns an agricultural as well as a moonlight and harsh shadow aristocracy in a poking, prying, slavering sycophancy. There's Welty -- Truman Capote -- even Marquand for influences in this unsparing, unflattering Louisiana family portrait.