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Consequencesby Penelope Lively
Synopses & Reviews
The Booker Prize-winning author’s first novel since The Photograph is a sweeping saga of three generations of women, their lives, and loves
A chance meeting in St. James’s Park begins young Lorna and Matt’s intense relationship. Wholly in love, they leave London for a cottage in a rural Somerset village. Their intimate life together — Matt’s woodcarving, Lorna’s self-discovery, their new baby, Molly — is shattered with the arrival of World War II. In 1960s London, Molly happens upon a forgotten newspaper — a seemingly small moment that leads to her first job and, eventually, a pregnancy by a wealthy man who wants to marry her but whom she does not love. Thirty years later, Ruth, who has always considered her existence a peculiar accident, questions her own marriage and begins a journey that takes her back to 1941 — and a redefinition of herself and of love.
Told in Lively’s incomparable prose, Consequences is a powerful story of growth, death, and rebirth and a study of the previous century — its major and minor events, its shaping of public consciousness, and its changing of lives.
"Booker and Whitbread prize — winner Lively begins her 14th novel, a multigenerational love story, in a London park in 1935, ends it nearly 70 years later after covering several lifetimes of love and heartbreak. The story starts when Lorna Bradley and Matt Faraday meet in St. James Park; they are instantly drawn to one another despite her upper-crust upbringing and Matt's 'tradesman' profession. After their marriage, they settle in the country where Matt works as an engraver and Lorna fulfills her domestic role as a wife and mother to their daughter, Molly. It is an idyllic situation until Matt is drafted and sent to Egypt, where he is killed in action. Lorna and young Molly relocate to London, and Lorna works with Matt's friend Lucas at his small printing press. Predictably, Lucas and Lorna marry, but she dies giving birth to Simon. The narrative diverges as grown-up Molly finds employment as a library assistant and has an affair with a wealthy man who fathers her child, Ruth. Grown and with children of her own, Ruth's curiosity about her ancestors sends her on a journey that brings the novel full circle. Lively (A Stitch in Time; Moon Tiger) has crafted a fine novel: intricate, heartbreaking and redemptive. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Readers familiar with Penelope Lively's 13 earlier novels, including the Booker Prize-winning 'Moon Tiger' and, most recently, 'The Photograph,' might reasonably expect her 14th,'Consequences,' to display some of the same strengths, among them a clear, unadorned prose style and a feel for the ways in which the past intrudes on the present. Alas, they will be disappointed. There are many... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) reasons for this. The first has to do with the simple fact that 'Consequences,' the sweeping saga of three generations of women, their lives and loves, is a bit too sweeping to do justice to the generations involved, which pass before our eyes with something approaching Old Testament velocity: Matt and Lorna beget Molly who. ... Rushing from 1935 to the present, the saga leaps decades ('Peter is City Editor now') or collapses them into chronological shorthand, both of which limit the reader's identification with the characters. 'Over the years, there had been the flat in Notting Hill and the one in Earls Court and the maisonette in Primrose Hill and the cottage in Highgate and the house in Kentish Town. They had migrated around London, with Ruth a size bigger each time, and with equipment that leaped from Lego and furry animals to stereo systems and posters of rock groups.' This isn't narrative; this is history in the microwave. There are other troubles, some — though not all — attributable to the pressure of having to cram so many groceries into so modest a basket. A short list might include a style almost completely shorn of metaphor (and the enriched seeing that metaphor provides), a voice largely innocent of irony (and humor), an attraction to homogeneous blocks of characters (all the boys in Matt's school are blind to art; all the parents see the art teacher, Mr. Avery, the same way), and, finally, a positive aversion to ambiguity, to the complexities and contradictions of human motivation, which are to mature literature what carbon is to life. In their place we get a terrible sincerity, the kind that suggests not honesty but shallowness, which quickly devolves into predictability. The culprit here is Lively's narrator's voice, a voice that manages to say both too much and not enough, that does not brook interruptions, that explains — carefully, thoroughly — all the things that do not need explaining while tactfully avoiding those that might provide some genuine insight. The effect is akin to standing on a conveyor belt with one's third-grade teacher as she points out upcoming attractions and tells us what we should think of them. 'They were young,' Lively tells us, 'they were modern young, they saw themselves as in apposition to the assumptions and attitudes of conventional society.' This voice permeates everything. It makes people say things like, 'Ha ha! But what's with this forensic study of society, Ruth?' or engage in dialogue such as this: '"Happiness is the real world — the physical world, often." '"The splendor in the grass — that sort of thing?" '"That sort of thing. Sheer relish for what's on offer. An animal sort of feeling. Kicking up the heels." 'Molly nods. "Sunshine. Stars. A flower. A color."' The splendor in the grass, that sort of thing, is precisely what's missing here, just as the wilderness was missing from James Fenimore Cooper's fiction, whose characters, come to think of it, would have felt right at home with a line like, 'For the first time I knew blood lust.' Still, it's a mild outbreak of the other kind of lust that reveals this novel's troubles most effectively. Bear with me. Ruth, trapped in a loveless marriage to Peter, travels to Greece, where she meets Manolo, her guide, and Al, 'a hired gun' photojournalist with 'a cool assessing stare.' It's a tough call. 'Manolo has the face of a Greek icon — dark brown, almond-shaped eyes, aquiline nose.' His English (thank God) is 'immaculate.' 'He unfurls a verbal banner.' His eyes (have I mentioned his eyes?) are 'huge, brown and complicit,' and they flash — often. He is passionate. We know this because he takes his hands off the wheel and bangs the dashboard a great deal to make a point or to signal enthusiasm. But it's not enough to beat Al. Al has 'fallen into the Amazon ... been sniped at by Afghan tribesmen,' and, best of all, 'he has that warm, toasty, male smell.' Game, set and match. But just when we think that there may be some well-deserved bodice ripping in Ruth's immediate future and some actual emotion in ours, we get this: 'He sets about undressing her — kindly, efficiently ... lifting her T-shirt (and she raises her arms obediently, like a child), undoing her bra. '"That's the girl," he says. ... 'She is astonished. ... She is amazed at how easy it is, in the event, how — well, how unembarrassing, how inevitable. The process is familiar — oh dear me, yes — but is also radically different.' The process? Oh dear me, no. Even today, one can still occasionally find apartment buildings in New York whose elevator floor indicators skip the number 13. In this case, the 14th might be the better choice. Mark Slouka's most recent novel is 'The Visible World.' A contributing editor at Harper's magazine, he is the chair of Creative Writing at the University of Chicago." Reviewed by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieMarie AranaMichael DirdaHarold HolzerTyler KnoxMark Slouka, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"At its center shimmers the idea of resiliency, of the continuity of humankind as embodied in one family, shattered and reconstituted, fragile, stubborn, enduring." New York Times
"[A] bold, lovely book, unsparing yet never gratuitously unkind." Los Angeles Times
"Penelope Lively has worked within the tradition of humane, realistic, cultivated women writers who flourished in England in the second half of the 20th century....It is a dwindling tradition, sadly, which makes a writer like Ms. Lively all the more worth treasuring." Wall Street Journal
"Lively takes the long view of history, and at the same time animates idiosyncratic characters with zest and quick strokes." Seattle Times
"Lively shows how even a trip to somewhere you've never been can feel like a homecoming." Newsday
"Lively neatly contrasts conventional and unconventional lives, considers the ironies of womanhood and the pitfalls of marriage, and celebrates creative endeavors." Booklist
The Booker Prize?winning author?s sweeping saga of three generations of women
?One of the most accomplished writers of fiction of our day? (The Washington Post ) follows the lives and loves of three women?Lorna, Molly, and Ruth?from World War II?era London to the close of the century. Told in Lively?s incomparable prose, this is a powerful story of growth, death, and renewal, as well as a penetrating look at how the major and minor events of the twentieth century changed lives. By chronicling the choices and consequences that comprise one family?s history, Lively offers an intimate and profound reaffirmation of the force of connection between generations.
About the Author
Penelope Lively is the author of twelve novels, most recently The Photograph. Her short stories have appeared in Good Housekeeping, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and The Observer, among others. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a member of PEN and the Society of Authors.
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