[These notes were made in 1984:]. As usual with Murdoch, the characters are far more comprehensible than the plot, which ends on a note of despairing irresolution just as we are getting ready for our old marriage-at-the-end-of-the-book pattern. Mischa, the central enigma, plays with the lives of small creatures, loving and killing them, as God plays with the lives of men - or so, at least, I think we are supposed to think. Rosa, the main female, comes across as strong-minded, but remains curiously passive in the face of events, accepting a ménage a trois with Jan and Stefan, or Annette's decision to leave school. As for the rest, they are all sharply individualized - the antiquarian, the tired civil servant, the worried immigrant dressmaker. A gallery, rather than a story. Notable (perhaps due to early date?) that this is the first Murdoch I've read that didn't involve at least one explicit homosexual relationship.