(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Harriet and David meet at an office party. In no time, they find that they both want to start a family. Harriet is a virgin, despite her friends’ sexual promiscuity, and David has had only one long relationship with another woman. Harriet and David decide to marry. Then they purchase a large Victorian-style home in the suburbs of London, planning to have many children. On the day they take ownership of the house, David and Harriet have sex in a bed left by the previous owners. Harriet becomes pregnant and is now a stay-at-home wife. David continues his work as an architect.

David’s mother, Molly; his stepfather, Frederick; his father, James; and his stepmother, Jessica, visit the couple’s new home. James, a wealthy shipbuilder, agrees to pay the mortgage. Harriet’s mother, Dorothy, also visits and agrees to stay and help Harriet through the pregnancy and to help raise the child. Luke is born in 1966. Three months after Harriet gives birth to Luke, she again becomes pregnant.

Meanwhile, Harriet and David’s extended families visit and stay at their large house over Christmas and Easter holidays. Harriet’s sister, Sarah, and her husband, William, struggle through marital problems, and Sarah gives birth to a baby with Down syndrome. Harriet has her second child, Helen, and soon thereafter her third, Jane. Despite Dorothy’s protests that Harriet is having too many children too quickly, the Lovatts think of themselves as a perfect family that deserves its happiness. Harriet believes that Sarah and William had a child with Down syndrome because of their quarreling.

Harriet gives birth to a fourth child, Paul. David’s parents and Dorothy continue to protest the number of children the Lovatts are having and question how they will afford to send them all to school. After Dorothy leaves to take care of Sarah’s children, Harriet gets pregnant again and soon realizes the pregnancy will be exceptionally difficult. The fetus kicks early in the pregnancy, and Harriet becomes convinced that it is trying to tear out of her womb. Dorothy returns and chastises the...

(The entire section is 857 words.)