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This novel consists of selections from the diary of an author, starting soon after his retirement and continuing until just before his death. There is very little in the way of plot, but a great deal of quiet musing about art, nature, society, and the things that make life worth living. Although this is a work of fiction, there are clear parallels between the narrator's life and Gissing's own life. This leads many commenters to view it as semi-autobiographical.