This attempt to assess a life begins with the words with which her grandmother ended hers- ""What have I lived for?"" and while it explores experience, with both intimacy and candor, it is more than a confessional and neither an apologia nor a justification. Diana Athill did not inherit the ""snug.. smug"" protected world of her grandmother's time, nor her fixed frame of moral and religious reference (she became an agnostic); and after her parents became ""poor"" and servantless, she had a rather sketchy education (with a early, avid interest in sex- self taught; the horses on the farm and Marie Stopes). A bright girl, if unscholarly and generally lazy, she went on to Oxford. Through all these early years and then again later was the idealized image of Paul who served in more than a tutelary capacity- became her lover- than her fiance- then broke it off. In the years to follow of her at first deliberate, later diminishing promiscuity, she was aware of her emotional impotence, her conscious longing to love, self-conscious fear; a chance meeting with Andre Deutsch led to a long association with him in publishing (Allan Wingate); then her increased interest in traveling abroad, and finally after twenty years of ""unhappiness"", satisfaction in writing-- her first collection of short stories was published last year (An Unavoidable Delay). This book, her second, has the virtues of its honesty and immediacy and it offers a retrospective of a life lived- if not wisely by conventional canons- at least fully.