A SIMPLE DESCRIPTION of this book is easy: it is a collection of nine short stories by someone who has long since proved herself to be a master of the genre. But, in what she calls an ‘Apologia’, Jhabvala herself provides a more complex description. ‘These chapters’, she writes, ‘are potentially autobiographical. . . . Every situation was one I could have been in myself, and sometimes, to some extent, was.’ She goes on to suggest that, in their composition, she may have been ‘trying out alternative destinies’, not for fictional characters but for herself.