The story of three women: Lorna, her daughter Molly, and her daughter, Ruth, as they experience love and loss in their own lives and that of their families. The story covers the period from Lorna's marriage, just before WW2, until almost the present day.
After reading The Photograph, I determined to read more Penelope Lively, but hadn't got around to it until now. And this was well worth it. Lovely writing, sympathetic characters and a moving story. In fact, perhaps the women were a bit too sympathetic: you couldn't really help but like them.
I think that nearly all the people in the book - or at least the significant characters - were likeable. Only one person I can think of didn't fit that pattern, and so for that reason it felt a little bit artificial to me. The bad stuff came from events, rather than people.
E.g. this section: Lucas is a friend of Matt, who's Lorna's husband:
Lucas thought Lorna the most appealing and attractive girl he had ever met. It did not occur to him to envy Matt because patently a girl like Lorna was not for the likes of Lucas... It seemed to Lucas entirely inevitable that Lorna and Matt should have found one another, and he felt content - privileged - to have a place on the edges of this charmed alliance.
Before starting the book, I didn't read the synopsis so had no idea how it would turn out, and assumed to start with that it was just a story about wartime romance. So what happened to Lorna was a little bit surprising - I'd expected that having been made to be fond of her character that I'd be able to follow her through the book, whereas the focus moved to her daughter fairly soon.
When Molly finds her first job, and moved into a flat, you get a feel for how her life's potential is all ahead of her:
Gradually, the flat began to feel like an acceptable base; Molly knew that, like the library, it was merely a stepping stone of some kind, but she was pleased to have set off in this way. I have no idea where I am going, she thought, but I have begun.and later, she thinks:
I have not seen much, as yet. Maybe I should sign up as an investigative journalist, or do a PhD in social studies - a spot of anthropology.When, when she has a young child or her own:
To go out in the evening, she would require a precarious infrastructure of babysitters; a lover who stayed overnight must run the gauntlet of toys strewn about the place, and Ruth's assessing gaze in the morning.
Interesting though the stories were (and they were interesting), the main joy of the book was writing. One other sections I marked, I need to run this past Steve:
'If you're middle class,' said Sam, 'you expect to earn better and better throughout life. If you're working class, you don't. That's the only sociological truism I know'
I'm looking forward to reading more by Penelope Lively.
Completed : 31-Jan-2009