Tessa Hadley, . . Holt, $23 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7065-1

In this complex, intelligent family epic, Hadley (Accidents in the Home) chronicles the lives of three generations of English women over four decades of social and political change. After her father is killed in WWII, 11-year-old Joyce and her mother, sister and brother go to live with Joyce's stern schoolteacher aunt and her aunt's family. Escaping from this cozy menagerie when she goes away to art college, Joyce, by now a striking, warmhearted redhead ("Men liked Joyce"), falls in love with her married professor, an intense painter who leaves his wife for her. Joyce adapts well to married life (like Mrs. Dalloway, she throws elaborate parties), but her marriage is less conventional than it seems. Her daughter Zoe, quieter and more self-contained, does well at school and goes away to Cambridge, where she studies history and embarks on a tormented relationship with clever, rigid Simon ("you know he never touched me—I mean, literally, even with his hand—except when he wanted to make love to me"). Against Simon's wishes, Zoe has his baby, but shortly after Pearl's birth Zoe leaves him, making a life for herself as a successful conflict expert and academic. Pearl, Zoe's rebellious daughter, has Joyce's red hair but is defiantly herself, reveling in disorder and roving with gangs of friends. The novel itself is an unruly domestic tangle of family members, lovers and friends, crowded and intimate. Cutting abruptly across decades and then zeroing in on a few months or years in the life of its endearingly human protagonists, it expertly captures the texture of daily existence and the struggle of three memorable women to make their way in the world. (Oct.)

Forecast: Fans of Margaret Drabble and the Doris Lessing of The Sweetest Dream are the target readership for this thoughtful, analytical domestic novel.