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.
Sounds like an excellent read. I don't believe I've read anything she's written, though I've heard her spoken of before. I love it when a book makes you ponder something in your own life, the way her choices of books and possessions has done for you. Perhaps you'll share some of your choices when you decide on them? Now you've got me thinking, too...ReplyDelete
Hi, Kathy. Her six things chapter reminded me of the idea behind the look at "The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things" by Paula Bryne. Two objects of my own come to mind immediately - my Scrabble game, a family heirloom, with the original wooden tiles and my small collection of vintage (and newer) fountain pens. I am a sucker for a fountain pen! I will keep thinking...Delete
Belle If you enjoyed that book by Paula Byrne I recommend "Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead" the title sounds over the top but its a play on words "Mad" being an abbreviation for Madresfield House (I wish they had considered another title!) but the book is very good. I just discovered her partner is Jonathan Bate the Shakespearean scholar. I just completed an on-line course he led from University of Warwick. Interesting to see a couple so accomplished. As usual forgive the rambling off topic!ReplyDelete
Ah, Tullik, you always have discovered some fascinating read to recommend! I am a fan of Mr. Waugh and have added this book to my list. And, Off Topic is one of my favorite places to be! Thank you.Delete
Her desert island reads are so *hard* (I've only read the James and the Madox Ford, but I'm guessing the Golding fits). Maybe that's what one needs on a desert island though: lots of difficult bits to try to figure out. Still...ReplyDelete
I agree, Vicki. I hope if ever I am stranded on a desert isle, it will not be with those three books. I think 'Robinson Crusoe' would be much more helpful!Delete