The married couples in this book have two things in common: a skill in the duplicity that flourishes even in happy marriages, and an invitation to the Farthingoes ball. In the months preceding the party, we learn something of their double lives: the faces that each one exposes to their spouses and to the world give little hint of their complex and secret tribulations. By the time they arrive at the ball, each clutching his or her different hopes and fears, we have become familiar with their unsmooth paths, and shared many a humorous escapade or private tragedy with Rachel and Thomas, Mary and Bill, Ursula and Martin, Frances and Toby, as well as the alluring R. Cotterman and the only questing bachelor, Ralph. Sophisticated, sympathetic, witty and razor-sharp in its observations of the sub-text of married life, this is a wonderfully accomplished and enjoyable novel which develops totally out of the characters it creates.

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