O-Nobu is quick-witted and cunning, a snob and narcissist no less than her husband, passionate, arrogant, spoiled, insecure, naive -- yet, above all, gallant. Under Soseki's scrutiny, she emerges as a flesh-and-blood heroine with a palpable reality, dueling with her husband, his troublemaking friend, Kobayashi, and her sister-in-law, O-Hidé. Tsuda undertakes his own battles with Kobayashi, O-Hidé, and the manipulative Madam Yoshikawa, his boss's wife. These exchanges explode into moments of intense jealousy, rancor, and recrimination that will surprise English-speaking readers who expect indirectness, delicacy, and reticence in Japanese relations. Echoing the work of Jane Austen and Henry James, Soseki's novel achieves maximal drama with minimal action and symbolizes a tectonic shift in literary form.