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The book's deliberately restrained title conceals a truly horrifying portrait of a socially appropriate, emotionally murderous marriage. Bartley Hubbard's wife, Marcia, is single mindedly possessive of him. Howells follows their move from a small town in Maine to Boston, the big city where they must establish themselves. Socially, they keep being shuttled between the middle class and the lower fringes of the upper class. There are plenty of well-done characters and, of course, there is a love triangle-all torment and self-denial. Howell's inspiration for the novel was Medea.