Friday, February 13, 2009

Consequences by Penelope Lively eBook edition

consequencesAs a part of my (very British) upbringing, we played parlor games.  On rainy days or during long quasi-social evenings a favorite was Consequences.

Consequences is a very simple sequence games.  The first person writes a man's name, folds the paper down and passes it to the next person who writes a woman's name.  Each person adds a scrap on information -- the place, what he said, what she said, the consequence and the outcome.  The results are always random and very often hilarious.

Consequences is a clever adaptation of this old parlor game.  Matt met Lorna in Saint James Park . . .

This simple statement begins a seventy year history of three women:  Lorna, Molly and Ruth.  The story weaves external history and internal stories and demonstrate how time and memory change perceptions of events.

The lives of these three women (grandmother, daughter and grand daughter) are held up for examination and exploration.  Lively deftly compares and contrasts their lives, their choices and the random events of the world around them.  She shows how the present is ever shadowed by the past; even when we are not aware of exactly what the past was. 

Both the interior and the exterior lives of these characters are finely drawn.  Even if you do not agree with the choices they make, Lively's narrative will pull you in and keep you reading.

I have been a Penelope Lively fan for close to thirty years; every since I happened upon a copy of the Road to Lichfied.  She always writes about time, perception and loss with great empathy and grace. Her eye for detail, vivid prose, meticulous plotting are a joy to read. And as an added bonus, I always feel a little smarter when I finish one of her books.

Here is the publisher's blurb:

A chance meeting in St. James's Park begins young Lorna and Matt's intense relationship. Wholly in love, they leave London for a cottage in a rural Somerset village. Their intimate life together--Matt's woodcarving, Lorna's self-discovery, their new baby, Molly--is shattered with the arrival of World War II. In 1960s London, Molly happens upon a forgotten newspaper--a seemingly small moment that leads to her first job and, eventually, a pregnancy by a wealthy man who wants to marry her but whom she does not love. Thirty years later, Ruth, who has always considered her existence a peculiar accident, questions her own marriage and begins a journey that takes her back to 1941--and a redefinition of herself and of love.

Told in Lively's incomparable prose, Consequences is a powerful story of growth, death, and rebirth and a study of the previous century--its major and minor events, its shaping of public consciousness, and its changing of lives.


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