(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The depiction of a long-running sisterhood, augmented by the pleasure of watching the children grow up with their own independent visions of life, gives The Radiant Way immense appeal. Alix swells with gratitude to the gods for her son Nicholas and his beautiful, talented companion, Ilse. They are both talented artists, generous and open to life, and the fortune that Deborah Manning, Nicholas’ grandmother, bestows on them gives a storybook happy closure to their affairs.

Liz’s children and stepchildren appear less prominently, but they all seem to be coping successfully with youth’s vicissitudes and are finding their own places. They have so far sidestepped the great traps laid for young people by drugs, alcohol, and sex, and clearly Liz has had much to do with their success. She has loved her stepsons as she has loved her own daughters, and she is loved by them in return. The successes of the Headleand children contrast with the collapse into madness and death of the unfortunate Jilly Fox, whose parents are vacationing in foreign lands when Jilly is beheaded. With so much urban madness everywhere around them, the children of Liz and Alix keep level heads.

Celia Harper, daughter of Shirley and Cliff, is every bit her Aunt Liz’s niece. Although she has not realized it yet, Shirley is incubating another Cambridge intellectual from Northam. Celia reads about the Brigantes, she watches the fuddled domesticity around her, and she...

(The entire section is 581 words.)