An unashamedly romantic novel also does not hesitate to use some pretty frayed situations to record the hard life and times of Alison, from her birth, during World War I, just before her father is heroically killed in action. Still it's a fairly reassuring world she inherits- there's Cook and Nannie, and later Nim to bring her up while her mother, a vain woman, neglects her brood. Alison, the youngest, is also the least conventional; she is expelled from boarding school; she goes to Paris and has an experimental liaison; and after some terribly emancipated talks with Max Dreyfus, an American newspaperman, she falls in love with him, follows him to Spain for that war, bears his child after he is killed. Independent ever, she takes a job, then an espionage mission during World War II, and returns to witness her child's death-under the wheels of a motor lorry. Taking the easier out, she drinks for a time-then pulls out of it- and is perhaps ready for the steady love offered her by John Barr, known since childhood.... There may always be an England like Chetham-Strode's- but oh- to be there? Well, women, only.