Wednesday, May 11, 2011

REVIEW: Moon Tiger, by Penelope Lively

Moon Tiger, by Penelope Lively. This edition published 1989 by Harper Perennial. Booker Prize. Literary Fiction.

Winner of the Man Booker Prize in 1987, Moon Tiger is the bedside confession and life story of Claudia Hampton, writer of popular histories now on her deathbed. She says she will write the history of the world so she tells her own story and that of her family- her brother Gordon and his wife, who knows Claudia to be the most important woman in his life; her daughter Lisa, the doggedly average daughter of the larger-than-life Claudia; Lisa's father, distant and aristocratic; and her lover, Tom, who she meets in Egypt during World War 2 and loses almost as soon as she finds him.

First of all, Lively's writing is incredible. Her descriptions of characters and her eye for detail bring the most everyday situations to life. You know these people; you can feel Lisa's pain especially at growing up in the shadow of her flamboyant mother, a woman who doesn't want her daughter to call her mother because it's just too ordinary, and ordinary is what Claudia can never be. Although Tom is the lover of her life, the man for whom she pines to her dying breath, the real love of her life is her brother Gordon, the only relationship that lasts. 

The segments of the book taking place in Egypt are the most colorful; Lively makes you feel the heat, the crush of crowds, the empty and yet seductive power of the desert. It's also where Claudia experiences the only real love she ever feels and her passion for Tom bring the landscape alive. England, Europe and America feel duller, flat, because she has no emotional ties there- no connective tissue. Tom's journals, which she reads at the end of her life, have about them a quiet tenderness that ease her final days.

At heart Moon Tiger is a character study of a strong and difficult woman; Claudia is a wonderfully, vividly drawn character- as are all the characters in the book. She's not perfect, but the book is, in its way, a perfect, gentle, subtle portrait of an unusual woman and her unusual life. I relished every drop of Lively's beautiful writing and thoroughly enjoyed this fantastic, moving novel.

I read this book for the 2011 Complete Booker Challenge.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

10 comments:

bermudaonion said...

Claudia sounds like just the kind of woman I like to read about!

JoAnn said...

Great review, Marie! I've had this on my wish list for years... must pick up a copy soon. Great writing and a 'character study' make this sound like a book I'd love.

Angela said...

Thanks for introducing me to an old yet new book!

Zibilee said...

What an interesting sounding story. I do have to agree with Kathy and say that it sounds like Claudia would be really engrossing to read about, and the bit about her true love being her brother, well that's just out there enough to be intriguing! Great review, Marie, as usual :)

lorrimilli said...

I've been contemplating buying this. Nice review.

Audra said...

I looooooooooooooove Penelope Lively and I just love this book -- so beautiful. I recommend Making It Up next -- it's her 'what if's about her life and if she made one different decision in any number of situations. I haven't met a Lively novel I didn't love -- you've made me want to give this a reread now!

Amused said...

I haven't read this one before but it sounds wonderful so thank you for putting it on my radar! I love going back and reading books that I missed the first time around.

stacybuckeye said...

I wasn't familiar with this one but it looks like a lovely story.

Aine Greaney said...

Marie, Just visiting and so delighted to see that one of my favorite all-time books is reviewed on here. I love Penelope Lively, and particularly love "Moon Tiger." You've inspired me to read it again.

amy said...

I absolutely adored this book. so wonderful and creative.