Protagonist Claudia Hampton tells us from her deathbed that she is writing "a history of the world." The book is much more than a historical novel--it examines the way language creates reality--but it is certainly set against the backdrop of many specific historical events and the way they were interwoven into Claudia's life. Such specific events as World Wars I and II (the first of which took Claudia's father's life and the second of which brought her love), the rise of Communism, and the Hungarian Revolution support the concept of the book as an overview of history.
Claudia reveals to us that she was a historian in her own right and a correspondent who covered the Rommel campaign in Egypt. These historical events highlight the reminiscences of Claudia's personal life and show the intermingling of the personal and the public.