A group of somewhat vaguely connected stories set in contemporary Dorset, only not as we know it because England is a mere vassel state of Rome (along with the rest of the world). Dominated and repressed by the Catholic church, many freedoms restricted, scientific progress retarded, linguistically and culturally more fragmented, people go on living their everyday lives although some dream of freedom...
With a dense rich prose, alluding to supernatural themes, this reads more like fantasy than SF. Although this is very much in the "alternate history" sub-genre of SF and a variety of technological differences are explored. With the use of petroleom prohibited, steam driven trucks dominate the haulage industry. The use of electricity is also supressed leading to a network of semaphore stations around the world that facilitate communication. Although the focus of the stories are very much on the trials and tribulations of the characters that inhabit them.
The stories are of varying interest and are primarily setting the scene for the concluding story in which events that shape the future of the England (and the world) unfold. Although the coda at the end is interesting as it reveals something that flips your preconceptions on their head, causing you to consider what has happened in a different light.
Overall I found the stories too meandering and fragmented to be able to enjoy the book as much as I would have liked and was left somewhat disappointed and underwhelmed. Keith Roberts was a good writer with one of the best prose styles I've seen in science fiction but I didn't quite engage with what the author was trying to do here. Or maybe it was the way he was trying to do it?