Penelope Lively is a British author of award-winning adult novels and books for children. I had not read any of her works until I stumbled across her recently published memoir Dancing Fish and Ammonites.
Ms. Lively is 81. This memoir is not quite a memoir. She calls it "a view from old age." It contains her reflections on age (she speaks from experience) and memory, books and history, and the six possessions that she holds near to her heart and that "articulate something of who I am."
Although her look at her childhood growing up in Cairo and her take on the social changes that have taken place in England (and the world for that matter) in her lifetime were splendid to read about, it was of course her look at her books and her reading that especially intrigued me.
"I can measure out my life in books," she writes and begins with the enthralling tales of Beatrix Potter, the King James Version of The Bible, and Andrew Lang's Tales of Troy and Greece of her childhood, on through the romantic historical novels of her teen years, and the serendipitous reading of fiction in her adult years.
But in old age, she decides, the three titles she would pick for her desert island stash are Henry James's What Maisie Knew, William Golding's The Inheritors, and Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier.
Perhaps not my choices, I haven't read them, but like her spotlight on the six possessions that she cherishes, it prompted my own thoughts as to my favorites and keepsakes. I am still pondering these.
In addition to being a thoughtful read, I love the cover of this book. Every time I glance at the dancing fish - which are a representation of the leaping fish sherd she once found on the beach and one of her six things - I have to smile. They look so joyful.