Hailed by critics as a benchmark in a career full of award-winning achievements, Making It Up is Penelope Lively's answer to the oft-asked question, "How much of what you write comes from your own life?" What if Lively hadn't escaped from Egypt, her birthplace, at the outbreak of World War II? What would her life have been like if she'd married someone else? From a hillside in Italy to an archaeological dig, the author explores the stories that could have been hers, fashioning a sublime dance between reality and ...
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Making It Up

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Hailed by critics as a benchmark in a career full of award-winning achievements, Making It Up is Penelope Lively's answer to the oft-asked question, "How much of what you write comes from your own life?" What if Lively hadn't escaped from Egypt, her birthplace, at the outbreak of World War II? What would her life have been like if she'd married someone else? From a hillside in Italy to an archaeological dig, the author explores the stories that could have been hers, fashioning a sublime dance between reality and imagination that confirms her reputation as a singular talent.
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Editorial Reviews

Roxanna Robinson
Who knows what determines the course of a life? Genes, character, chance? There are many means of exploring these questions, but one of the most tantalizing is Penelope Lively's "confabulation."
The New York Times Sunday Book Review
Jonathan Yardley
… if one theme coursing through all these stories is the connection of past and present, the other is love. Nobody writes more astutely or affectingly about that great subject than Penelope Lively, and rarely has she written about it so well as she does here. Making It Up is indeed a confabulation, but it is rooted in real human experience and real human emotion. What happens here is not what really happened, but it feels as real as reality itself.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In this engrossing, perverse challenge to genre "an anti-memoir" Booker Award novelist Lively (Moon Tiger, 1987) explores the road not taken. What if her family, evacuating Egypt during WWII, had traveled to South Africa rather than Palestine? What if a date that ended chastely had led to unwed motherhood? What if her husband-to-be had been captured in Korea? What if that other Penelope had taken up with Achilles? What if Lively, who eventually became a writer, had, as a student, gone on an archeological dig? "This book is fiction," Lively warns. The narratives are inventions, rendered by an omniscient voice, framed by brief, evocative autobiographical passages, and peopled by non-Penelopes. Lively achieves "the authenticity of fiction" in their credibility, but she lived none of these alternative lives. Writers and would-be writers will be intrigued to observe the transformation of life into literature. Readers may enjoy wrestling with questions of choice and chance in human affairs, or they may settle for a series of neatly crafted tales. The vividly imagined lives stir up questions far more thought provoking than the simple "what if?" As Lively so elegantly demonstrates, "The paths do not so much fork as flourish." Agent, Emma Sweeny. (On sale Oct. 24) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Lively (Moon Tiger) invents new versions of herself in a series of tales she calls "anti-memoir." A true version of the events in her life appears at the preface or conclusion to these graceful stories, which might well serve as lessons for would-be writers on how to create fiction from real life. This series of "what-ifs," or roads not taken, considers how Lively's life might have turned out had the ship on which she sailed as a girl escaping wartime Cairo been torpedoed; had her sexual initiation resulted in an unplanned pregnancy; and had the man she married ended up, as he very nearly might have, being sent to fight in the Korean conflict. At times, the character of Lively is the main attraction, while at others she is an off-stage presence. But in every case, she proves as captivating and intriguing as we can only assume the author must be. A gemlike collection by a consummate storyteller; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/05.]-Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, Ont. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This collection of eight short semi-fictional works demonstrates the effortlessly transparent style that has won English novelist Lively (The Photograph, 2003, etc.) both a Booker Prize and an appreciative international audience. Describing these stories as "confabulations" in the psychoanalytic sense of being a compound of memories and imagined events, the author takes actual bits of her life-a moment of choice or menace-and reconstructs what might have happened, had things gone a different route. These phantom existences begin with the memory of growing up in Cairo during World War II, when British ex-pats fled Rommel's incursions by going either to South Africa or Palestine. Lively, a child of six, her mother and her nanny, went to Palestine. In the imagined work, narrated from the point of view of the pretty young nanny, a similar trio takes a ship that is torpedoed on the way to Cape Town, and the child dies. In other narratives, Lively's fictional equivalent, age 22, dies in a plane crash in 1956; her handbag is discovered 50 years later and returned to a younger half-sister, who tries to envision that lost life. Some incarnations are funnier and more robust. In "Transatlantic," Lively's alter ego marries an American, lives in New England and visits the quaint home of a stodgy, patronizing aunt and uncle, where "a large dog lumbered occasionally from one resting place to another." There is a charming modesty to this work, as Lively puts herself at the periphery of other imagined lives, or allows herself to be extinguished by chance events. Nearing the end of her eminent career, the author seems content to recede, to acknowledge the onrush of time, while showing an unobtrusivegratitude for the world she has been permitted to enjoy. Lively's ability to reveal character sharply and instantaneously makes this an unalloyed pleasure.
From the Publisher
Nobody writes more astutely or affectingly about [love]... than Penelope Lively. (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post)

Making It Up display[s] Lively's incisive prose style, her wit, and, above all, her agile imagination. (Entertainment Weekly)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440627224
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/26/2006
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 858,375
  • File size: 215 KB

Meet the Author

Penelope Lively

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.

Good To Know

In her interview with Barnes & Noble.com, Lively shared some fun facts about herself:

"I came late to writing -- I was in my late 30s before I wrote anything. The years before that had been busy with small children, and I seem to have fallen into writing almost by accident. Since then, I have never stopped -- books for children to begin with, then a period writing for both adults and children -- short stories also -- then for adults only when the children's books, sadly, left me."

"It has been a busy 30 years, but because writing is a solitary activity and I like the company of others, I have also always had other involvements -- with writers' organizations such as Britain's Society of Authors, with PEN, with the Royal Society of Literature, and, for six years, as a member of the Board of the British Library (the opposite number of the Library of Congress) which I regarded as a great privilege -- what could be more important than the national archive?"

"I have always been an avid user of libraries; like any writer, much of my inspiration comes from life as it is lived -- what you see and hear and experience, but my novels have sprung from some abiding interest -- the operation of memory, the effects of choice and contingency, the conflicting nature of evidence -- and these concerns are fueled by reading: serendipitous and eclectic reading."

"I am first and foremost a reader myself. I don't think I could write if I wasn't constantly reading. I both wind and unwind by reading -- stimulus and relaxation both. I used to love tramping the landscape, and gardening, but arthritis rules out both of those, so I do both vicariously through books. I live in the city now, but feel out of place -- I have always before lived most of the time in the country: I miss wide skies, weather, seasons."

"Never mind, there are compensations, and London is a very different place from the pinched and bomb-shattered place to which I came as a schoolgirl in 1945 -- now it is multicultural, polyglot, vibrant, unpredictable, in a state of constant change but with that bedrock of permanence that an old place always has. I like to escape from time to time -- mainly to West Somerset, where we have a family cottage and I can admire my daughter's garden -- she has the gardening gene in a big way and is far more skilled than I ever was -- bird-watch, walk a bit, talk to people I've known for decades, and see the night sky crackling with the stars that the city blots out."

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    1. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 17, 1933
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cairo, Egypt
    1. Education:
      Honors Degree in Modern History, University of Oxford, England, 1955

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Mozambique Channel 3
The Albert Hall 45
The Temple of Mithras 72
Imjin River 112
Transatlantic 134
Comet 164
Number Twelve Sheep Street 205
Penelope 232
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