The Photograph
by Penelope Lively (2002)

Searching through a little-used cupboard at home, landscape historian Glyn Peters chances upon a photograph he has never seen. Taken in high summer, many years before, it shows his wife, Kath, holding hands with another man

Glyn's work as a historian should have inured him to unexpected findings and reversals, but he is ill-prepared for this radical shift in percentpio. His mind fills with questions. Who was the man? Who took the photograph? Where was it taken?

As Glyn begins to search for answers, he and those around him find the certainties of both past and present slipping away, and the picture of this beautiful woman they all thought they knew distorts, changes, grows mistier.

Penelope Lively's new novel is a seductive and suspenseful tale of what can happen when you look too closely into the past

Penelope Lively makes writing seem easy. From its opening pages, her new novel pitches the reader directly into the mindsets of her interrelated characters when Glyn Peters, landscape historian and television personality, stumbles across a photograph of his beautiful dead wife, Kath, secretly holding hands with her sister's husband. This casual revelation of infidelity shatters his complacent male pride, provoking a seismic shift in his ordered perceptions of the past. He will need all his skills at deconstructing landscape to reassemble the shards of his own story, bride beneath the spoil-heap of his considerable ego Times Literary Supplement

Lively pits the outrage of dying young against the anguish of growing old. In her previous work, old age has seemed a time of mature reflection. Here she presents characters hurtling towards 60, furious at their inability to slam on the brakes. Elaine, particularly, is a supreme piece of character-drawing in the classic Lively mould - an educated older woman, harassed by her own limitations and irritated by those of others. The discovery of the old affair between her husband and her younger sister pitches her from a permanent sense of pique into something approaching desolation, "some new age, a time when things would be apparently the same, also rather different" Guardian

THE PHOTOGRAPH is Penelope Lively's 14th novel, but she shows no sign of running out of inventiveness or of failing to write books that are hugely pleasurable to read. This one is deftly edged with humour Independent on Sunday

THE PHOTOGRAPH can be viewed as a study of many issues, but above all it is an examination of the sadness of incompatibility and the brevity of romance. Financial times

Memory is the ghost in the machine, and Lively skilfully implies its slippery, insidiously destructive power. For someone with at least one foot in the past, she remains a close observer of the contemporary; her portrayal of the itinerant and impersonal nature of modern working life is particularly astute/
. . . . . As an account of the past's cataclysmic resurfacing and the possibility of faithfully recreating history, it ranks among the best since Julian Barnes' BEFORE SHE MET ME Time Out

. . . .This intensely interesting little book, which looks as inviting as vanilla sponge cake and leaves behind an aftertaste as bleak as cyanide. Sunday Telegraph

In her delicate, spot-on prose, Penelope Lively ruthlessly takes her microscope below the surface of two middle-class marriages and magnifies whatever it is that is left behind when passion is gone, when couples become immune to one another The Times

To read Penelope Lively's book is like slipping into the finest cashmere: beautifully wonven, fluid and expensive. Once experienced, it is impossible to enjoy inferior materials. The Evening Standard

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