Olivia Manning felt that her literary worth had never been recognized, and with good reason. If one were to evaluate her work on the strength of the Balkan and Levant trilogies alone, she would stand head and shoulders above most writers of her generation. In an uncomplicated yet beautiful writing style, she tells the stories of individuals caught up in war, their lives suspended in Romania, Greece, and Cairo. The shadow of the Nazi threat hangs over everything they do and plan. Her main characters are as great as anything in Dickens or in much other literature. Guy Pritchard, a man loved by everyone, who cares deeply about his fellow human beings, is a disaster as a husband, and one of the most memorable (and irritating) characters in modern fiction. His wife Harriet carries the moral weight of the tale. In the first trilogy, the impoverished Count Yakimov (brilliantly played by Ronald Pickup in the otherwise appalling BBC adaptation) is outrageous and unforgettable. A host of other characters come in and out, creating a magnificent tapestry in a fiction you will want to return to often as the years go by.