The fabled missing link between Jane Austen and Iris Murdoch. The first 30 pages of this book did nothing for me, being set amidst year ~1900 English people, which are the worst. There is the smallness of thought, the constraint of long dead conventions, and just a generalized squalor of mind and body and housing and food and weather. But! After ~30 pages the novel emerges from this gray morass and starts to shine steadily brighter. The characters are fleshed out with greater detail and precision, revealing new facets of their personality and history. An infusion of new and more lively people joins the social graph. There is a magical socialist who plays an ever larger role, breaking people out of their shells and arguing against narrow convention, there are streams and glades, sunlight and flowers and unexpected kisses, there are people comedically stumbling upon other people naked. There is comedy, delusion, hypocrisy, and an argument for kindness. In short, it represents a transition point between Austen's world and the more fevered and modern and multi-aspected and accurate one of Murdoch. It's still very much a simple and partial prototype, not something as undeniably correct and graceful as what Murdoch creates, but all the basic parts are there. Oh, and the chapter names and character names are a treat.