Nobody can pigeonhole the author of Lolly Willowes, a fantasy, The Corner That Held Them, a realistic historical novel, and now The Flint Anchor, a period piece. Personally I prefer her in the fantasy vein, where her wit and tender imaginative quality seem their truest. In this new novel, the central character, John Barnard, is so exaggerated a portrait of the Victorian pater familias that he is almost caricatured. Miss Warner acknowledges that her imagination was fired by a note on her great-great-grand-father, ""a wicked young man who must never be spoken of"". And she has drawn such a man in Joseph Kettle, husband of Mary, apple of her father's eye. Euphemia, the worthy elder sister, was kept a spinster by her father who would permit no suitors. One brother escaped the family imprisonment and made a fortune in the West Indies. The mother chose the sustenance of alcohol as her ""out"". Ellen, disfigured by a birthmark, became a neurotic eccentric. And Wilberforce, youngest son, played lone wolf, successfully insulated from his father's tempers. A family chronicle, with subplots woven into the central theme of Victorian parental dominance, against a setting of an east coast seaport. It has its moments of near comedy, of near tragedy, subtly sustained, of adroit characterization, but-for the most part- is overlong and pretty special in appeal.