We had a lovely get together this evening with our book club and the book we were discussing – eventually after catching up with each other’s news, was ‘Moon Tiger‘ by Penelope Lively. We all agreed it was an exceptional book, although I confess I did get somewhat muddled at points; one of the others said she had a similar experience but then started the book again back at the beginning – maybe I should have done that.
The book is the story of a woman’s life and begins with her dying as an old lady ad ends in her actual death – between the two we discover the story of her extraordinary life. It was published in 1987 and won the Booker Prize that year. The main character, Claudia Hampton was born in about 1909, but her story begins when she was eleven and traces her life and loves, through WW2 when she is a war correspondent in Egypt.
Penelope Lively was born Penelope Low and I first came across her as a writer of children’s stories – particularly ‘The Ghost of Thomas Kempe‘ (for which she won the Carnegie Medal) which I read with my class, and T’he Revenge of Samuel Stokes ‘. She was born in 1933 in Cairo, and passages of ‘Moon Tiger‘ are set in Egypt. She has published more than twenty books for children, and the same for adult fiction. She has also published autobiographical writing and a book which sounds most interesting, The Presence of the Past: An introduction to landscape history .
Penelope was married for over thirty years to Professor Jack Lively, and she now lives in London. Her most recent book was published a year ago, ‘The Purple Swamp Hen and Other stories’