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VINE VOICEon 3 March 2016
Penelope Lively's look back over her life is, typically, well-written, thoughtful and reflective. She touches on many of the themes that run through her novels: time, the sense of layering that combines past with present in so many aspects of life, and the role of memory. A personal take on what it is like to age, Lively rarely feels sorry for herself with some of the discomforts that age brings. Instead, she offers an accessible and highly engaging memoir that looks at different aspects of her life, through memory, books and writing, and a few important possessions that, for her, bring together that sense of past and present.

Here is someone with plenty to say about what it is to have lived in a particular period of time. It's about as far away from the empty-headed, ghost written "celebrity" memoirs that litter the shelves these days as you could possibly imagine. An interesting and thought-provoking read for anyone interested in the passage of time and the impact it has on all of us. One Amazon reviewer has said that this is a book to read only if you're in your seventies and apparently approaching the end of your own life - utter nonsense.
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on 31 July 2017
A delightful book, reflecting on life since the Second World War and the experience of living into one's late seventies, provoking the frequent response 'Yes!' It also fills in interesting information about events in those years, such as the Suez Crisis, illuminating them with the benefit of hindsight.
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on 26 April 2017
Really interesting way of writing memoirs. Quick read despite continual sparked memories and mind wandering
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on 4 January 2015
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 January 2014
In this inventive trawl through memory, Penelope Lively reviews the landscape of old age from the perspective of an occupant. It's a bold but compelling take; one which leaves me wondering whether it's better to travel than arrive. Maybe my view is coloured by being on the cusp; not wanting to travel toward that final destination and certainly not having yet arrived.

As always, her writing is entertaining and original. She uses language and grammar to the full. I like a book where I discover new words and there were a few for me here. I enjoyed her often lyrical reflections. She has, I believe, fallen a little out of favour as an author. How many folk remember her Booker or Costa short list titles?

These reflections are personal, but with an underlying universal truth. Along with Diane Athill, she's one of very few writers capable of giving the ordinary reader a clear view from the road ahead. I enjoyed her journey and thank her for sharing part of her eventful life with us. It's a delightful, poignant but overwhelmingly positive read.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 4 November 2013
Penelope Lively's new book 'is not quite a memoir' but it is about memory and 'the view from old age'. She bravely tackles a subject few others have dared to broach. This fascinating, truthful and lucid study is timely, as old age is the new demographic and the youngish politicians cannot ignore the problems created by the 1.4 million in the UK now over 80, 'gobbling up benefits', giving grief to government agencies, filling GP surgeries and hospital beds, bolstered by pensions, free passes for transport, winter fuel, TV licences and prescriptions yet expecting people to work until they are nearly 70. 'Today, people in their 60's seem - not young, just nicely mature... old age is in the eye of the beholder'. She thinks 70 is the brink of old age and 80 definitely old. Old age is forever stereotyped, she feels, but her own 80 year old self is just 'a top layer dressing...early selves are still mutinously present getting a word in now and then'. She discusses widowhood. 'The world is full of widows... we have engaged with grief and loss...so get on with it and don't behave as though you are uniquely afflicted'. She was married to Professor Jack Lively for 41 years; he died 12 years ago but is with her in her dreams, alive with herself often younger.

She is not envious of the young and would not wish to be young again if it meant 'a repeat performance'. Failing eyesight and arthritis have prevented her from the intense gardening she loved (she still potters about in her small, paved London garden). She no longer desires to travel. Her emphasis is on preservation of memory. She is aware it starts to fail as we get older. Reading is her daily fix, brain food, plenty of fiction, history, archaeology and treasured books from her shelves. and her still writing survives. She asks herself why we remember certain things whilst others are lost in 'the great dark cavern of what we have forgotten'.

Although certain desires and drives have gone, Penelope is 'as alive to the world as I have ever been'. She argues for it's many pleasures: the spring sunshine, food, a crisp newspaper, a hot shower, the sound of a beloved voice on the phone, the comfort of bed. The final section contains six items that mean a great deal to her and why. Two little ammonites in a piece of Dorset rock (like the one embossed on the book's cover), some kettle holders from Maine, a shard of 12th century pottery with two little leaping fish, an Egyptian cat ornament, a mother-of-pearl covered New Testament and an 18th century sampler. Penelope Lively observes that 'One of the few advantages of age is that you can report on it with a certain authority', adding 'We are sleeping histories of the world'. Delight, observant, witty and thoughtful; this wonderful book has all of these and is a joy to read.
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on 28 January 2017
Beautifully written as you would expect. Gives one food for thought ( although at 80 something the author has 30 more years of life than me) A slim little volume that wanders off in all sorts of directions. Lovely
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on 29 October 2013
Very much enjoyed this book by Penelope Lively. I had read a review by Bel Mooney and decided to buy it. It's a wonderful eye-opener into a modern day 80 year-old lady's take on life. We all wonder what old-age is like and what inner resources are available to us and as a 63 year old woman 'not young, just nicely mature' I found it most helpful. Her expressive writing is full of wise advice. She writes on memory which is important to us all - about there being three types of memory procedural, semantic and autobiographical memory giving context.
I found this a very interesting and wide-ranging book.
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on 31 January 2014
I found this a disappointment. Maybe my expectations were too high. I love her style of writing in a novel but found this reflections just too unstructured even just as a book to dip into.

Perhaps I am not yet at the right time in life to appreciate it - a point she makes in the book about reading. It has clearly resonated with others so I will keep it on the shelf and perhaps go back to it in a few years' time.
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on 4 December 2013
As the author says, this book is a sort of memoir, but below the memories and narratives there lies a deep layer of thought, a jurassic cliff of meaning and understanding. The rating of four stars rather than five concerns quantity rather than quality and is the sign of dissatisfaction: I would have liked more of every layer.

As do all such offerings, it is death-defying and records a love garnered from the life so far enjoyed.

This is to be recommended to all who like Mrs Lively's work, to all who enjoy a gentle philosophy with a story, and especially to all who have reached old age or who have dealings with the final years of a full life.
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