"In this unique memoir, every recollection of a particular time and place in the author's life includes a novel she is reading, a novel that seems to be moving somewhere in the background. But as her memory grows more vivid, it becomes clear that the novel is in fact shaping her life, illuminating it. Reading Willa Cather's Lucy Gayheart, as a young girl, prepares her for the shocking death of the father of a gifted student in her music class. Later, newly married adn living as a teacher in Nigeria, she reads Chinue Achebe's Things Fall Apart with her students and is instructed by them in the deeper meanings of the novel: the rich destiny of Igbo life that preceded the arrival of Europeans whose colonial ambitions dismantled its authority. In Nigeria, too, she reads Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady, and, turning its pages, ponders her own marriage. Later on, spending a year in northern France in a landscape deeply pocked by two world wars, she puts Madame Bovary firmly aside to read a lesser known novel, Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos, a novel set precisely in the scarred countryside where she finds herself. At last she learns to recognize the hidden poor living beside her and, crucially, is made aware of her own desire to distance herself from their suffering. The memoir closes with a tender account of the author's friendship with the writer Diana Trilling, whose failing sight inspires a plan to read aloud Proust's masterwork, an undertaking that takes six years to complete. What does it mean to live? they ask each other. What does it mean to love? Faced with Diana's approaching death adn the mysteries of her own life, the author wonders whether reading may after all be experience at its most ardent, its most transforming." -- Jacket.