Burgess' slant on South African reality supposes a special equality of whites and blacks: that everyone's silly, unhappy, and going about things all wrong. Finley Diall, for instance, is a prissy Anglican cleric living in cloud-cuckooland, faithless but veddy correct--and deaf to the dire reports that his African assistant, Father Mzinyane, regularly brings him about trouble brewing. Dulcie, Finley's sister, paints and is frustrated, as are her friends: Maggie, a nurse whose work among the dying aged is beginning to become too much for her; and Mildred, who's compiling a book of famous last words. Meantime, while all this white soul-aridity is taking place, a general strike is being planned, but even here there's personality trouble: two black-activist leaders jockey for position on the strike's back. So it seems like nothing will happen. . . and then, just then, it does: the strike, violence, death--and the novel's last pages go very dark, probably disproportionately so, considering the world-weary tone of all that has gone before. And the book finally ends on a note of bleak chirping. Thus, Burgess' South Africa approach never quite coheres--but it's an intriguing mix of the satiric and the dire, with a well-captured sense of edginess (Dulcie tells Finley: ""There is a beggar at the gate . . . . We've been deluding ourselves into thinking no one's there, that the beggar isn't a beggar, only someone taking the air, a shadow, or a pile of empty rags. But it is a beggar, Fin. . ."") and a neat, sideswiping indictment of self-involvement in the midst of desperate times.