I. Love. This. Book.

consequencesWhen I first read Consequences by Penelope Lively in 2009 I liked it so much I gave it a 9 on my 10-point scale. Just one point off being an all-time favorite. Having just finished listening to the audio version I’m not just reminded of how much I like the book but I am inclined to upgrade it to a full 10 out of 10. In fact, liked it so much that I decided to write this post as soon as the narrator said “The end.” (I’m not sure she actually did, but you get the point.)

As is often my challenge, I have many things to say about a book but the thought of having to come up with some coherent, cogent review is beyond my patience and abilities. So, it’s time for another bulleted list.

  • The book begins in 1934 when artist Matt meets Lorna on a park bench in London. The story ends with their 44 year-old granddaughter Ruth contemplating the balance of her life. In the middle is all the wonderful and tragic and thoughtful things that happen to them, their daughter/mother Molly, and their small, somewhat unconventional family.
  • This one will appeal to the Bohemian in you. A woodblock artist, book maker, writers, librarian, gallery employee, arts administrator, and a poet all walk through the story at various points.
  • Lively has the mind of an historian but also of an historiographer. She not only tends to pepper her novels with historical bits and bobs but she often explores how we know what we know about the past and contemplates more than a little about the effects of time and perspective on how we feel and understand things. But she is subtle about it and it never feels pedantic or preachy.
  • Lively the person looks fairly conventional and perhaps even a little staid, but her characters are rarely so. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t wild and they tend not to do crazy or silly things but they burn with passions and determination that appeal to me. And she writes about sex, relationships, and faith (or lack thereof) in and open, and often progressive way but always on the decorous side.
  • Despite the many tragedies that happen along the way, so many wonderful things happen as well. And for both the good and the bad there is the recurrent theme of how certain moments, some are choices, some are not choices lead to, um, consequences–outcomes, new trajectories, triumph and tragedy. Something that occurs in more than a few of her other novels as well, most notably perhaps, and most recently in How it All Began.
  • There was a really wonderful story in Slate this week about Persephone Books and it got me to thinking just how perfectly Consequences would fit in with their catalog. (Now that I think of it they have already published Consequences the 1919 novel by E.M. Delafield.) I’ve often reduced the output of Persephone to being cozy, but after reading the Slate piece, I realize I have been selling them and the books short. They are about the domestic side of life for sure, but for as much as I like that kind of thing, I think I have been slightly dismissive of how important that is not just for my own pleasure but for chronicling and understanding civilization.
  • Would do really well adapted to large or small screen. Although when looking up whether or not someone has already done so, I came across Ursula K LeGuin’s less than glowing review of the book in The Guardian in 2007. I won’t link to it.

19 thoughts on “I. Love. This. Book.

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings June 26, 2015 / 4:34 am

    I personally think that Persephones are quietly subversive – and their list is more varied than you might think! I’ve yet to read this Lively but shall look out for it after your glowing recommendation!

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    • Thomas June 27, 2015 / 10:48 am

      There is definitely a lot of variation on their list but I guess I gravitate to the ones that very domestic in outlook.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. LauraC June 26, 2015 / 7:53 am

    Today happens to be library day and there is a copy of this waiting on my branch’s shelves. I’ll be picking it up. Anything you say deserves a possible 10, I have to check out!

    Like

    • Thomas June 27, 2015 / 10:48 am

      What luck. I look forward to hearing what you think.

      Like

  3. Barbara June 26, 2015 / 8:00 am

    I thoroughly enjoy Penelope Lively. I am savoring the last few of hers that I have not read by only taking one a month from my library. She writes about small things, but small things are what our own lives are truly about.

    Like

    • Thomas June 27, 2015 / 10:49 am

      Reading a Lively a month. That sounds lovely.

      Like

  4. Lisa June 26, 2015 / 8:45 am

    I really enjoyed this one as well, but I haven’t re-read it since. I was thinking it was time to re-read The Photograph, but maybe it will be this one instead.

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    • Thomas June 27, 2015 / 10:50 am

      The subject matter really speaks to me in Consequences. Much less so with The Photograph. Although I wouldn’t mind revisiting that as well.

      Like

  5. quinn June 26, 2015 / 1:15 pm

    Love your bulletpoint blogs….can pack so much in a small space….thank u.
    I read the Penelopes (Fitzgerald and Lively) this yr for 1st time after mentions in your blog and others. Fully enjoyed the settings/topics/talents of Fitz but looooved Lively. Somehow she feels a bit ‘warmer’ (not meant negatively) while tackling similar themes/insights…’How it all began’ was a fav and became a gift to a few friends….have this one on TBR, moving to top w/ your 10…many thanks…quinn

    Like

    • Thomas June 27, 2015 / 10:52 am

      I know exactly what you mean about Lively feeling warmer. I think Fitzgerald is a bit more spare in her prose and it makes them less inviting. I think F might be slightly deeper and more ambitious in efforts but that doesn’t necessarily translate to more enjoyable.

      Like

  6. AnnieD June 26, 2015 / 9:55 pm

    Just bought it online based entirely on your review. This kind of enthusiasm from someone whose opinions I trust cannot be passed by.

    Like

    • Thomas June 27, 2015 / 10:53 am

      Ooh, the pressure is on now. But I guess if you liked the substance of what I wrote you should get along with this one.

      Like

  7. lakesidemusing June 27, 2015 / 10:18 am

    You sure know how to get my attention with a post title! Consequences has been on my wish list for literally years… think I’ll consider listening. So happy you are enjoying audiobooks these days!

    Like

  8. Thomas June 27, 2015 / 10:54 am

    As long as you are ready for the robot voice and don’t let it bother you I think you will have a good time with this one.

    Like

  9. nerdybookgirl June 29, 2015 / 2:30 pm

    Added to my growing TBR. I’m reading a book with lots of Bohemian elements from art to … ummm… blurred relationship lines. It is AS Byatt’s The Children’s Book and I like it so far, but I don’t know if everyone will like it. Byatt can be longwinded.

    Like

  10. soph_smith2004@yahoo.co.uk July 3, 2015 / 2:51 am

    Good morning from London. I have not read Consequences but recently discovered Lively with Moon Tiger. English literary establishment sniffiness of so many great women writers of the 1980s unhelpful in leading the contemporary reader towards these books. Her Booker win described at time as ‘the housewife’s choice’ in 1984. Sharp, wildly egocentric female character in Moon Tiger utterly irresistible. Your widely ranging reading choices are an adventure and an inspiration, Thomas, thank you. I am enjoying the English angle too!

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  11. Mary July 11, 2015 / 2:16 pm

    I just finished the book this morning; I could’ve easily read it all yesterday, but I didn’t want the story to end that quickly. and I LOVED it. Thank you so much for the recommendation…and also the link to that Persephone review. which prompted me to visit Persephone’s website and order the Biannual. It arrived in today’s mail (there is something totally delightful about an air mail package that you forgot to expect!) … I’ve got a lot of reading to catch up on!

    Like

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