James Lasdun's great gift is his instinct for the vertiginous moments when the essence of a life discloses itself. In sharply evoked settings that range from the wilds of northern Greece to the beaches of Cape Cod, these intensely dramatic tales chart the metamorphoses of their characters as they fall prey to the range of human passions. As James Wood has written, "James Lasdun seems to me to be one of the secret gardens of English writing. . . . When we read him we know what language is for."