In Pack of Cards, Penelope Lively introduces the reader to slivers of the everyday world that are not always open to observation, as she delves into the minutiae of her characters' lives. Whether she writes about a widow on a visit to Russia, a small boy's consignment to boarding school, or an agoraphobic housewife, Penelope Lively takes the reader past the closed curtains, through the locked door, into a world that seems at first mundane and then at second glance, proves to be ...
In Pack of Cards, Penelope Lively introduces the reader to slivers of the everyday world that are not always open to observation, as she delves into the minutiae of her characters' lives. Whether she writes about a widow on a visit to Russia, a small boy's consignment to boarding school, or an agoraphobic housewife, Penelope Lively takes the reader past the closed curtains, through the locked door, into a world that seems at first mundane and then at second glance, proves to be uniquely memorable.
In the course of ``At the Pitt-Rivers,'' one of 34 stories in this outstanding collection by the Booker Prize-winning author, a character reflects that just looking at a chance-met girl made you feel ``a bit like you were joining in how she felt.'' That sensation of involvement pervades these stories too--achieved by perfect tone, unerring point of view and unflagging tension. Although the stories are epiphanic the lives of the protagonists can be readily imagined: these people exist. In so mundane a situation as that of ``Bus Stop,'' the conductor--set apart by an educated accent and a dignified bearing--collects a fare from a fashionable woman who turns out to be his sister-in-law, and so dismays her that she rides past her stop. Very little happens in ``Nothing Missing but the Samovar,'' about a young German at Cambridge who spends a few months doing research at a Dorset farm--except that he leaves the farm totally changed. The precise image, the unexpected detail, compassion without sentimentality, are only a few of the elements that make these stories a celebration of the narrative art. (Apr.)
Lively follows her Booker Prize-winning Moon Tiger ( LJ 3/15/88) with a lustrous collection of short fiction. These witty, profoundly civilized stories display Lively's compassion, intelligence, and versatility. Echoes of Chekhov distinguish ``The Crimean Hotel,'' a small gem of a story about loneliness set in Yalta. In ``A Long Night at Abu Simbel,'' a guide escorting a group of shrill British tourists through Egypt is so provoked that she abandons them to their fate. In the title story a wealthy, pretentious family is revealed to be as shallow and uninteresting as a pack of cards. This captivatingly intelligent collection confirms Lively's place as one of Britain's most imaginative and important contemporary writers.-- Laurence Hull, Cannon Memorial Lib., Concord, N.C.
Beloved memoirist (A House Unlocked), children's book author (The Ghost of Thomas Kempe), and Booker Prize winner Penelope Lively is perhaps best known for smart, literate thrillers that look to the past for keys to understanding, like 2003's The Photograph. "I'm not an historian," Lively told Britain's The Observer, "but I can get interested -- obsessively interested -- with any aspect of the past."
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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."