The character's in Julian Barnes' new collection of stories are growing old and facing the end of their lives - some with bitter regret, some with resignation and others still with raging defiance. The settings range from nineteenth-century Sweden and Russia to a suburban 'Barnet Shop', where the narrator measure out his life in haircuts, and a South Bank concert hall where a music lover carries out an obsessive campaign of revenge against those who cough in concerts. In 'Knowing French' a fiercely independent eighty-year old begins a correspondence with an author - 'Dear Dr Barnes' - that enriches both their lives. A woman reads elaborate recipes to her sick husband in 'Appetite'; a retired soldier in 'Hygiene' makes his annual trip to attend a regimental dinner, run errands for his wife and spend the afternoon with a tart called Babs. In a collection that is wise and funny, clever and moving, Julian Barnes has created characters who passions and longings are made all the stronger by the knowledge that, for them, time is almost at an end.