Books: Fate Worse Than Life

SOMETHING IN DISGUISE by Elizabeth Jane Howard. 280 pages. Viking. $5.95.

May spends her time meditating on the Absolute and dragging electric heaters around her enormous house in a futile effort to keep warm. Her husband, a retired army colonel and career bore, schemes to prevent unknown forces from tricking him out of May's money. Alice, the colonel's daughter by an earlier marriage, wants to escape the house, where she serves her father's whim and writes morose poetry on the side. Oliver, May's son, is destined for a brilliant career, if only he could get down to choosing one.

This unlikely group of...

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