Gisela Elsner's alternately tragic and funny novel, published in Germany in 1982, startles as much by its wit as by its insight into the dreadful vacuity of one woman's existence in middle-class urban Germany. Hailed as a modern counterpart to Flaubert's Madame Bovary, it tells the story of Lilo Besslein, whose marriage to the dull and mean-spirited Ernst proves bleak compensation for the shame of remaining single. Even when Lilo has a child, the predicted joys of parenthood elude her, and she seeks consolation in the only ways she knows how. She takes a job, a baby-minder, a lover - and larger and larger doses of tranquilizers; she drinks martinis and spends extravagantly on clothes; she ignores, even renounces, her husband and child. But each attempt at escape seems to feel her helplessness and only hastens the day when she must, at last, take decisive action.