Allersmead is the home where the seemingly mis-matched Alison and Charles have brought up their six children, with the help of au-pair Ingrid. Moving forward and backward in time, the novel fleshes out the family's story by focusing on different characters' points of view of overlapping events.
The characters were very believable: Alison is an earth-mother type, who's determined to have a large family and provide a happy, healty home, with lots of family rituals. Charles is a writer of academic books which bring in enough money to supplement the income deriving from an inherited stock portfolio, and who seems to have little interest in doing anything other than working in his study. The children enjoy different levels of success in their lives, and for the most part they seem to attribute the way their lives turned out - for better or worse - to their time at Allersmead.
This book was simply a great read - one of those that slips down and you don't stop to think about how well it was written, because you're enjoying it so much.
I completely believed in Alison especially, and sympathised with her sometimes unsuccessful attempts to enjoin the rest of the family to have fun, while at the same time wincing a bit and feeling for the children who weren't always up for it.
As the novel progresses, I became more and more curious about Charles, who is - especially compared to Alison - extremely non-demonstrative. I looked forward to the section of the book where we'd get an insight into what he was thinking about everything, but the book ended without that. And I thikn this was right: you're left uncertain as to his inner feelings and motivations, just like the rest of the family was.
Really enjoyed this, and it made me want to read more by Penelope Lively
Completed : 25-May-2013 (audiobook)