i first read this book some years ago and have since read it several times and recommended it to dozens of friends, aquaintances and workmates. i made a great mistake the first time I read it, and always made a point of explaining this to others. the first few chapters are devoted to the lifestyles and temperaments of the main characters and I was totally disinterested in these rich, spoilt and pampered people. however once the story started to unfold I was constantly having to refer back to these opening pages in order to understand the characters that I had been so quick to dismiss at the start. how the author managed to maintain the pace of the story and keep the interest going is a mystery to me, but to coin a phrase it was a definate page turner. not being a very fast reader it took me a little time to read the first time round, but it was truly unputdownable. Shirley Conran expertly built up the tension and the interest, and the suprises until I found myself rooting for these spoilt women as they gradually learnt to work as a team, and put their selfishness, snobbery and individual needs to one side, in the interest of the group as a whole. through all the trials, tribulations, and terrors they must emerge better people, that is, if they can survive. sounds a bit 'twee', but no way is this twee, or predictable it's a truly breathtaking read. my first copy was borrowed several times until eventually it was not returned, but it has now been replaced and all ready to read again. it is certainly grisly in places, sad, heartbreaking, uplifting, satisfying and shocking in places, all emotions keenly felt thanks to the skill of the authors storytelling ability. thoroughly reccomended.