David Dabydeen is a prize-winning poet, and this, his second novel, gleams with a lyrical impulse that threatens at times to stop the story in its tracks. Luckily, it never quite succeeds. A West Indian arrives on the Kent coast to shore up the foundations of a precarious cliff-top village. Through the beguiling and tolerant agency of his landlady, he finds himself exploring instead the uncomfortable history that lies buried, but not quite dead, in the hearts of the village's inhabitants. As the novel proceeds, and the engineer completes his granite sea wall, the ironies mesh and converge: the hero suddenly feels transient and abused. If the theme feels a touch superimposed, there is no denying the grace and poise of the book's steady decline into pathos.