A poignant and bittersweet memoir from the distinguished British fiction writer Penelope Lively, Oleander, Jacaranda evokes the author's unusual childhood growing up English in Egypt during the 1930s and 1940s. Filled with the birds, animals and planets of the Nile landscape that the author knew as a child, Oleander, Jacaranda follows the young Penelope from a visit to a fellaheen village to an afternoon at the elegant Gezira Sporting Club, one milieu as exotic to her as the other. Lively's memoir offers us the ...
A poignant and bittersweet memoir from the distinguished British fiction writer Penelope Lively, Oleander, Jacaranda evokes the author's unusual childhood growing up English in Egypt during the 1930s and 1940s. Filled with the birds, animals and planets of the Nile landscape that the author knew as a child, Oleander, Jacaranda follows the young Penelope from a visit to a fellaheen village to an afternoon at the elegant Gezira Sporting Club, one milieu as exotic to her as the other. Lively's memoir offers us the rare opportunity to accompany a gifted writer on a journey of exploration into the mysterious world of her own childhood.
Lively, the Booker prize-winning British author of Moon Tiger , here recalls her childhood in Egypt from the mid-1930s until her parents divorced in 1945 when she was 12. This intriguing memoir of growing up in another culture relies on Lively's perception of experience rather than on a detailed chronology of events. Her father, whom she rarely saw, was a manager at the Bank of Egypt; her mother was taken up in the expatriate social whirl. Lively's upbringing was left to Lucy, a young English woman, who was first her nurse and then her governess. The author's impressionistic portraits of Egypt, Alexandria and Palestine evoke sights and smells that are, in many respects, no longer accessible. Already suffering emotionally from parental neglect, Lively was further traumatized when her return to England caused her to be separated from Lucy. A sad and engaging reminiscence. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Oleander, jacaranda . . . jacaranda, oleander . . . they are the same trees but in reverse order, depending on whether you see them on the journey going or returning. In many ways, this childhood memoir, by the winner of the Booker Prize for her novel Moon Tiger ( LJ 3/15/88), is just such a journey. It is an adult reminiscence, based on ``a headful of brilliant frozen moments'' from the author's 12-year sojourn as a British child in Egypt, Palestine, and Sudan in the 1930s and 1940s. It is also a journey of discovery into the nature of childhood perceptions. The wide, brown Nile, the ebony-skinned Nubians, incense-laden Jerusalem, and the stifling heat of Khartoum are experienced as a child would experience them, with Lively's surogate mother, Lucy, providing a chauvinistic filter. In this book Lively has given a heartrending yet historically fascinating account of a little girl who hardly knew her parents; it is a first-rate demonstration of how a child sees.-- Marie L. Lally, Alabama Sch . of Mathematics & Science, Mobile
Penelope Lively was born in 1933 in Cairo and spent her childhood there, moving to England in the last year of World War II. She has written many prizewinning novels and collections of short stories for both adults and children, including the novel Moon Tiger, which won England's prestigious Booker Prize in England in 1987, and most recently Heat Wave. She lives in Oxfordshire and London.
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."