Family Album
Penelope Lively's latest book


FAMILY ALBUM manages to intrigue and delight, and to keep the reader captivated, racing along without obvious direction but with a very tight sense of purpose. The narrative is distanced to an extreme degree: we are reading an anthropological study of the English middle classes from the 1970's to the present, their traditions and tribal habits causing winces of delighted, uncomfortable recognition

Penelope Lively is perhaps best known for her Booker-winning MOON TIGER, and her children's novels such as A STITCH IN TIME and THE HOUSE IN NORHAM GARDENS. This, written in her 80's * with a searing and entirely contemporary eye, should be rated as one of her most impressive works. (Joanna Briscoe, Saturday Guardian)             (* actually, her 70's)

Lively succeeds brilliantly in getting a hold on the climate of family life. Slowly we absorb the details that get lost in the bluster and flurry until we are so drawn to, so tightly contained in the dynamics of this one that the end, when it comes, is simply devastating.
(Natalie Sandison, The Times)

FAMILY ALBUM shows Penelope Lively at her best, sharp-eyed but sympathetic, deftly steering the reader from one point of view to another. This novel should delight her regular readers and ensnare new ones. Charlotte Moore, Evening Standard

Her new book, her 16th novel for adults, will disappoint neither her loyal fans nor readers coming to her for the first time. It is a strange, haunting work about the secrets that lie beneath the surface of a seemingly ordinary family. . . . As in Lively's second volume of memoir, A HOUSE UNLOCKED, about her grandparents' idyllic home in Somerset, the house in FAMILY ALBUM has as strong a presence as any of the characters. There are some terrific descriptions of the way in which it stows away events, preserving everything, good and bad, in the one great archive.
Lorna Bradbury, Daily Telegraph

FAMILY ALBUM is one of those ridiculously simple, ridiculously readable novels whose artistry only becomes apparent when you put it down with a sigh of regret, having devoured it in a sitting. It is probably too low-key to make a literary splash, but more than 20 years after winning the Booker with MOON TIGER, Lively still displays an economy and an elegance that put younger writers to shame. David Robson, Sunday Telegraph

As usual in a Lively novel, the characterization is admirable. We come to know and, to an extent, understand all the nine principal players in the story. The depiction of Alison is particularly good. She is tiresome and yet, in her determination that life should be what she says it is, oddly touching. We see what it is that she can never understand: why the children need to get away, but also why Paul finds a reluctant refuge in Allersmead. In short, the complexities and silences of family life are intelligently and subtly explored. . . This is a very engaging novel, continuously interesting and often moving because Lively has so thoroughly imagined her characters and writes of them with wise sympathy. It reads so easily that you might suppose it was easy to write. But this kind of novel is much harder to bring off than one packed with striking incidents. It is also, happily, more rewarding to read. Allan Massie, The Scotsman

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