Claudia Hampton, a beautiful, famous writer, lies dying in hospital.
But, as the nurses tend to her with quiet condescension, she is plotting her greatest work: a history of the world and in the process, my own'.
Gradually she re-creates the rich mosaic of her life and times, conjuring up those she has known.
There is Gordon, her adored brother; Jasper, the charming, untrustworthy lover and father of Lisa, her cool, conventional daughter; and Tom, her one great love, both found and lost in wartime Egypt.
Penelope Lively's Booker Prize-winning novel weaves an exquisite mesh of memories, flashbacks and shifting voices, in a haunting story of loss and desire.