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Dancing Fish and Ammonitesby Penelope Lively
Synopses & Reviews
The beloved and bestselling author takes an intimate look back at a life of reading and writing
The memory that we live with . . . is the moth-eaten version of our own past that each of us carries around, depends on. It is our ID; this is how we know who we are and where we have been.”
Memory and history have been Penelope Livelys terrain in fiction over a career that has spanned five decades. But she has only rarely given readers a glimpse into her influences and formative years.
Dancing Fish and Ammonites traces the arc of Livelys life, stretching from her early childhood in Cairo to boarding school in England to the sweeping social changes of Britains twentieth century. She reflects on her early love of archeology, the fragments of the ancients that have accompanied her journey—including a sherd of Egyptian ceramic depicting dancing fish and ammonites found years ago on a Dorset beach. She also writes insightfully about aging and what life looks like from where she now stands.
"At 80, Lively, celebrated British novelist and author (How It All Began), examines in five essays the many appealing and noteworthy facets of old age with her expert observer's eye and eloquent touch. With the aged literally inheriting the earth in greater numbers, Lively is simply fascinated to be among this swelling, far-from-invisible demographic, and in her digressive, erudite, witty narrative, she looks at issues of mortality and degeneration, which slam everyone as they age, as happened to her recently in terms of back and eye problems, and left her widowed after the death of her longtime husband, Jack, 12 years ago; as well she delves into the marvels of memory as the 'majestic, sustaining weapon' over the ravages of time. For Lively the realities of old age mean she has given up on traveling ('been there, seen that') and vigorous gardening, both of which she once threw herself into headlong, yet she has intensified her reading, and in her mellifluous bibliographic essay 'Reading and Writing' she returns to some of the formative works of her generation, and which have influenced her own writing, from Beatrix Potter to her beloved blue Pelican paperbacks. Overall, these reflective essays offer a wealth of riches for further study, and help to dispel many of the stereotypes about the aged, from the 'smiling old dear to the grumbling curmudgeon,' which she abashedly admits are frequently ossified in fiction." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Penelope Lively grew up in Egypt but settled in England after the war and took a degree in history at St Anne's College, Oxford. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a member of PEN and the Society of Authors. She was married to the late Professor Jack Lively, has a daughter, a son and four grandchildren, and lives in Oxfordshire and London.
Penelope Lively is the author of many prize-winning novels and short story collections for both adults and children. She has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize; once in 1977 for her first novel, The Road to Lichfield, and again in 1984 for According to Mark. She later won the 1987 Booker Prize for her highly acclaimed novel Moon Tiger. Her novels include Passing On, shortlisted for the 1989 Sunday Express Book of the Year Award, City of the Mind, Cleopatra's Sister and Heat Wave.
Penelope Lively has also written radio and television scripts and has acted as presenter for a BBC Radio 4 program on children's literature. She is a popular writer for children and has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award.
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