From A Swarm in May (1955, o.p.) to last year's All the King's Men, Mayne's many, always innovative books have been the products of his remarkably clear perception of the surfaces and undercurrents of human experience. Here, he portrays pivotal events in the life of a deaf, brain-damaged teen-ager from the point of view of the boy's 12-year-old sister, Eva, using carefully selected sensory impressions to pull the reader into a fully imagined world. With Dad off at sea most of the time, Eva is Mum's best help. Her small brother (Mercury) and sister (Tansy) are irrepressible charmers whose constant mayhem serves wonderfully as comic relief; Gideon is lovable but demanding, caught within his own limited abilities. Granddad gets Gideon a job on a canal boat, opening the locks; this Gideon manages well, though--since he doesn't understand about money--he tends to lose his wages, and he suffers an injury when his hand is caught between the boat and a dock. In the final pages, a second accident has paradoxically reversed Gideon's condition to some extent, restoring his hearing and rounding the lively plot almost too neatly. But what happens here is not so important as the memorable portrait of a working-class family of unique individuals, who, with great strength and love, cope with the stresses that fate has dealt them--including the hilariously described, scene-stealing shenanigans of Mercury and Tansy. Like Southall's books, demanding but rewarding.