Books: An Extra Grudge Against Life

A GOD AND HIS GIFTS by I. Compton-Burnett. 223 pages. Simon & Schuster. $4.50.

In Ivy Compton-Burnett's first and worst novel, Dolores (1911), the dolorous heroine sacrifices herself for everybody and is thereby ennobled. Fourteen years passed before Compton-Burnett's second novel, and by then the author had changed her mind. Pastors and Masters makes plain that self-sacrifice plays into the hands of tyrants, that there is nothing less selfish than the pursuit of self-interest. In her subsequent 17 novels, Compton-Burnett has never ceased to drive the lesson home.

"It is surprising how many people go where duty calls," says one of her characters....

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