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Comment: Published by Viking in 1998. Hardcover, 224 pages. The book is in almost perfect condition. The book may have been read previously and may show slight signs of wear.
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Spiderweb Hardcover – 16 Nov 1998


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First edition (16 Nov 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670869066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670869060
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.3 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,811,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This tale of a female social anthropologist trying to adapt to retirement in a Somerset cottage, while musing on her past and its relationships in a variety of settings, is well below Penelope Lively's excellent best. Of course, this writer's virtues are on display - her succinct, brisk writing style, her amusement at human follies, her intelligence, her ability to evoke past times and past mores and the ways in which they vividly return to the memory decades later. However, it seemed altogether a little thin, the characters insufficiently realised, the revelations at the end largely predictable. Having recently read her vastly superior 'Heatwave' - also on the theme of hidden violence and passions behind a seemingly idyllic setting - this seems very weak in comparison.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Sep 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is, in many ways, a typical Penelope Lively book. The present situation of the protagonist is interlaced with memories of her earlier life and reflections that she is always an observer not a doer. There is a subplot concerning alienated neighbours which is perhaps not explained as well as it should be or rather is too fragmentary for my taste. The book is however well written and comparatively short- a blessing in this age of blockbusters. In the end I enjoyed the book, read it quickly and have been mulling over it for the last couple of days. That seems not bad to me.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "zodiakclare" on 4 Jun 2001
Format: Hardcover
After hearing so much about Penelope Lively i decided to give her a go. What a struggle, is all i can say, fair enough i suppose if you've got nothing else to do. I only hope that her other works were better, there seemed to be no end to this book and it went on forever!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A Puzzling Novel That Doesn't Quite Gel 3 May 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Penelope Lively so dazzled us with her Booker Prize winning novel "Moon Tiger," that the publication of a new novel is a real event. But this is the problem, then, with "Spiderweb." Ms. Lively has raised our expectations to such heights that it is difficult for even her to fulfill them. In "Spiderweb," Ms. Lively's obsessions are again on display. The protagonist, a 65-year-old just-retired social anthropologist, moves into a cottage in the country and mulls over her exotic past even while studying her new surroundings with an anthropological eye. As in "Heat Wave," there are visits to stately homes, and as before, British archaeology makes a cameo appearance. But somehow, all of these elements do not add up, juxtaposed as they are against the story of the unrelentingly revolting and dangerous neighbors down the lane. Lively fans will want to read this novel; new readers would do better to start with "Moon Tiger" or her memoir, "Oleander Jacaranda."
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Good but a little unsatisfying 6 Jun 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is the story of Miss Stella Brentwood, a recently retired, successful anthropologist who suddenly realizes that she is old and lacks any strong connections after a life lived all over the world, and attempts to put down roots for the first time by buying a cottage in the English countryside, but has trouble shaking her habitual scientific detachment and continues to observe her own countrymen as if they were a kind of exotic tribe. (The "spiderweb" of the title refers to Stella's perception of the ties that bind people to one another, which she has always managed to avoid.) The book was funny, quite moving, and well written.
In my view, the subplot of the violently troubled family down the lane repeatedly threatened to upstage the rather more tame, domestic, and meditative central narrative, though it did provide a welcome dose of suspense, and was very dramatic and disturbing in its own right--perhaps worthy of a book in itself. Ms. Lively has a wonderful eye for detail and is obviously in control of her prose style, and her cross-cutting of different timelines as Stella reviews her past was in the end very effective.
I agree, however, with the reviewer below who felt that the ending was somewhat abrupt. I, too, kept flipping pages at the end, looking for the rest of the book. I was left feeling an almost painful lack of closure with Stella's character, which was disappointing because up until that point I felt I'd come to know her quite intimately. All in all a very good, but not a great, novel.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
An appetizer, not a Main serving, from an excellent writer 16 Sep 1999
By geebs@erols.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I found this a small delight from an author who has created fuller, deeper, more satisfying stories in the past. Not as minor an achievement, in my opinion, as Heat Wave, but well to the rear of my favorites such as According to Mark and Road to Lichfield. An awful lot of interior dialogue and telling rather than letting a story unfold. It does feel a bit patched together, a collection of fascinating characters that we dip in and out of, the weavings of a life. Some wise summarizings. But summaries aren't so often compelling fiction. It does add up to something that at times is moving and rich. In small servings. But the ending felt rushed, almost dispensed with too quickly, and I almost felt cheated by it. I felt the author abandoning her character and the story! I literally flipped the empty end pages in frustration, looking for more.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A lovely moment in a career of distinction 3 Dec 2000
By A. Hickman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Penelope Lively's "Spiderweb" may not be the author's finest hour, but it is a lovely moment in a career that includes a Booker Prize, for "Moon Tiger," in 1987, and a host of other finely crafted novels. By comparison, "Spiderweb" may seem a bit insubstantial (it runs to a scant 218 pages), but in the event, it makes its brief quite handily. Lively's premise seems to be that there are two types of people in the world, those who crave human contact, and those who don't. Stella Brentwood, Lively's protagonist, is emphatically a member of the latter. Having retired at age 65 from a career in anthropology, Stella does the unthinkable and "settles down" in a small West England village, where her attempts at domesticity include adopting a "spaniel-type" dog, which she names Bracken, in a sort of afterthought, as well as inheriting the affections of her late best friend's husband, Richard. But when her dysfunctional neighbors' sons shoot Bracken, in a senseless act of brutality, and both Richard and her friend Judith, who is on the rebound from a Lesbian relationship, attempt to intrude on Stella's hermitage, she disentangles herself from the soap opera of West Country life, and her "character detached" cottage is once again for sale. In spare, economic prose, Lively brings her characters and the West Country to life. At one point in the novel, Stella muses that her career in anthropology reduces to a sort of intellectual parasitism. The novel reader is an intellectual parasite who should delight in this reflection on retirement, incipient old age, and the spiderweb of human relationships.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Life Never Lived 15 Feb 2003
By Wendy Kaplan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Stella is a retired field anthropologist, past middle age, who makes the clinical decision that, at her time of life, it is time to finally put down roots. Never married (although certainly not without her lovers), chidless, and used to the nomadic life of a cultural observer, Stella thinks she will retire to the countryside, settle in a cottage, and maybe even acquire a dog--another stab at planting herself in a firm location.
Accordingly, she moves to a pleasant village recommended by Richard, the widower of Stella's lifelong (but rarely seen) friend Nadine. She acquires the requisite dog--which embarrasses her with its canine devotion--and sets about forming a life for herself in the same detached role of observer that she has used among tribespeople in New Guinea.
What Stella cannot see, and what therefore forms the ultimate sadness of her life, is that the village seethes with emotions of all kinds, from sexual to violent. Many of these emotions are directed at her. But Stella, as the author subtly but brilliantly points out in a series of flashbacks, has never really been a participant in her own life. Hence, she fails to see or experience reality--until it rears up and metaphorically attacks her. And by then, it's too late.
A deep, disturbing book, "Spiderweb" is a quick read--a fascinating character study that leaves the reader thinking long after the last page is read. And it poses an interesting question: Is it better to live a full life with all its messiness and emotional baggage? Or is it better to keep oneself always separate--thereby truly experiencing none of the depths of pain or joy?
Stella, in the end, can do neither.
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