Perhaps it is the sad fact that Lash was dying as she wrote it that makes her sixth and last book so thunderously powerful. Set in Tipperary, Ireland, and London, this tragic family saga shimmers with a keen wisdom and resonates vividly with the details of gentrified life in the countryside and with the contrast of the natural world to so-called ""respectable living."" Violet Farr, on the rebound from a failed love affair, stubbornly enters into an inappropriate marriage. Despite the conception of a child, there is no love between the couple, and Violet's megalomania inevitably precludes a healthy mother-child bond. The shunned son, Lumsden, grows up to become an amoral schemer and a con artist. He is handsome, fascinating and dangerous, so self-centered that we don't wonder when he rejects his own offspring, ill-conceived with lost soul Dolly. That child, Spencer, burdened with insane genes and an alcoholic mother, is the most pathetic of the family lineage. Only Spencer's own offspring, two generations away from the soul-crushing negativity of Violet, will emerge whole and uninjured, suggesting that healing and redemption can be achieved. This story encompasses a broad range of emotional extremes, class issues, times and locations. The world Lash creates is delivered forcefully into the reader's imagination in stark, resonant language. Whether showing the shadowy heart of a vicious, destructive matriarch or describing the pristine terrors of a disturbed child, Lash evokes the full spectrum of human grace, folly and evil with dazzling perspicacity. One of the most impressive contemporary novels to tackle that dubious, cliche-prone realm of ""the dysfunctional family,"" this is a moving, memorable work, which leaves us mourning the early loss of the gifted writer who died in 1993. (Sept.) FYI: Lash was the mother of actor Ralph Fiennes.