Moon Tiger is the brand name of the mosquito repellent which slowly burns throughout the balmy nights of Claudia Hampton's brief affair in Egypt with a young tank commander, Tom Southern. And this is the emotional core of Penelope Lively's award winning novel as her protagonist lies dying in a London hospital bed. Once a beautiful, intelligent, unconventional historian & former war correspondent, fate helps turn Claudia into an egoistic person and callous mother. For this book is not only about love, but about war and the way it transforms whoever you were, into whoever you've become - and how you are individually viewed by others.
Now a cantankerous old patient with failing consciousness, Claudia Hampton's mind moves randomly across time and historical events to reconstruct the strata of her life. The author presents her story in an unusual way, which I found a little difficult to follow at first. Some of the narrative is told in the past tense and some in the present tense, and it skips from 1st to 3rd person; it also alternates narrative voices. I think this 200 page novel benefits a second reading; "I'm writing a history of the world," she says. And the hands of the nurse are arrested for a moment...... "Well, my goodness" ...... "Upsy a bit dear, there's a good girl - then we'll get you a nice cup of tea."
This moving, poignant story that captures the last thoughts of a dying woman is a compelling read and a well deserved Booker Prize winner. I always enjoy Penelope Lively's understated way of writing, but for some unknown reason I have only just read 'Moon Tiger' over the weekend. I loved it - and this haunting evocation of love and loss must surely be her finest work.