I was reading Auchincloss's obit in the NYT recently and I realized that I hadn't read any of his books. Many critics consider this his most ambitious novel. I must say I enjoyed it. It was dense and intellectual and it sent me to the dictionary many times for such words as athwart, encomium and epicene. It also challenged my knowledge of philosophy and literature, assuming I knew more about Plato and Samuel Richardson than I really do! I like a book that pushes me in this way. It started out a bit slow, but became more engrossing as the details of the life Dr Prescott, headmaster of an elite American boys' school, piled up and we got to see him from many different perspectives: from his daughters, his friends, his students. I think many would say this book is dated, concerned as it is with the upper class New England life of the early 20th century, but ultimately, the book is about human nature, religious feeling, loyalty, cult of personality, striving for lofty goals, and failure. I don't think those things are ever dated.