Things are coming apart at the seams for Margaret Marsh during one cataclysmic season in her eight-year-old life. Born between the wars and brought up by her Holy Roller father and his compliant wife as a "Primal Saint" to eschew entertainments and to memorize and recite Bible chapter and verse, Margaret is in rebellion. With the arrival of a new baby in the household, her parents have hired the bawdy and buxom Lydia to help at home and escort Margaret on seaside outings, during which she encounters some eccentric residents of a home for the elderly and insane. At the same time, her mother renews the acquaintance of her childhood friends Binkie and Charles, from whom she'd been estranged since she went to work at the post office and they left for Cambridge. Both new and old acquaintances come together to shake up the once ordered lives of the Marshes.
VERDICT Published in the United Kingdom in 1978 and only briefly available here, this Booker nominee will appeal to readers who love the Penelopes (Fitzgerald and Lively) as well as Gardam's more recent novels, like Faith Fox and Old Filth. This treasure should send them back for all her books.