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, and Jasper, her charming, untrustworthy lover and father of Lisa, her cool, conventional daughter. Then there is 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.