Claudia Hampton lies dying in somewhere in the U.K. The once independent, intelligent, beautiful journalist and historian recalls her life the way we on hold on to our past, through the disjointed flow of consciousness which allows the mind to access memories. As she receives visitors and gifts, Claudia connects symbols and images from long ago with people from her current life. Circumstances and behaviors one may only reflect upon after the fact are revealed to her as an elderly woman as waking and dreaming states become entwined in her brain.
As Claudia, the once famed historian tells her own story, she makes a point to note several times throughout that she will write a history of the world. Claudia’s life, like all people’s is woven as part of a larger narrative-her memories, events, books she wrote, significant people have all become part of a greater history. ‘A history of the world, yes. And in the process, my own.’ Those she loves most are also very much a significant part of history.
The reflections of Claudia Hampton, despite her scholarly background, contain observations one might not expect from a historian. She mentions that history isn’t linear in the memory, rather it is recalled to the mind in streams of consciousness. ‘I’ve always thought a kaleidoscope view might be an interesting heresy. Shake the tube and see what comes out.’ It is very true that no person thinks directly about things, but one notion leads to another. They do not need to be connected or related in time or substance. Since the key to understanding one’s own past and the whole history of man, which are inextricably tied together really exists only in the mind-past, present, future must be only what we make them. Through Claudia, the author questions the objectivity of the historian and human race by asking existential questions. What is history, after all, if each person views things from a different perspective? Even a shared memory may be considered a completely alternate reality. What really happened? As Claudia ruminates, she realizes all that will be left of her after she dies is not the way she sees herself, but the way others perceive her.