Lively recently won Britain's prestigious Booker Prize for this deeply moving, elegantly structured novel. The heroine is Claudia Hampton, an unconventional historian and former war correspondent who lies in a hospital bed dying of cancer. Forced inward, Claudia moves randomly across time and place to reconstruct the strata of her life. But "most lives have their core, their kernel, the vital centre"; Claudia's is the brief, tragic encounter she had in Egypt during the war with Tom Southern, a British tank officer on leave from battle. Tom's voice, along with those of her brother and daughter, joins Claudia's to shape a narrative that is a complex, intricately composed fugue. This haunting evocation of loss is Lively's finest achievement yet.Laurence Hull, Cannon Memorial Lib., Concord, N.C.