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Consequences Paperback – 29 May 2008
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A flawlessly constructed mini-epic that will delight (Daily Telegraph)
Nourishing fare from a fine writer on sparkling form (Daily Mail)
Thoughtful and beautifully written (Woman and Home)
Destinies can change in an instant. In 1935, privileged misfit Lorna meets the love of her life. Falling for a penniless and bohemian artist, Matt, she abandons her stuffy Kensington existence in London and moves to a rustic cottage in Somerset. A baby, Molly, is born, but the coming war takes Matt - and Lorna's dreams - away ...Lorna's decisions and their unforeseeable consequences come to shape the stories first of her daughter, Molly, and then her granddaughter, Ruth. Consequences tells of three generations of women in their own twentieth-century times united by their shared experiences of love, pain, fate and happiness.See all Product description
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Penelope Lively is such a consummate, experienced story-teller that I think she must deliberately have planned this novel as a kind of theatre show, in which characters appear, play their part for a while and then leave the stage. This produces a certain detachment; although the book contains many profound and thoughtful truths, most of the more dramatic events (death in childbirth or on active service; the accident; a daughter hearing the unexpected news of her mother's death while abroad) take place off-stage and so it is difficult to respond more than one would to reading a sad report in a newspaper. So it's not a book that grabs you by the vitals and leaves you feeling emotionally wrung-out – I liked the characters (some more than others) but I didn't love them. And I did find the ending just a bit too neatly contrived. But it is beautifully written and leaves one with a lot to think about.
The war inevitably destroys their idyllic life when Matt is called up and leaves for action. Molly, their daughter barely remembers her father and even memories of her mother fade into the distance as she grows up in London with her stepfather Lucas and his son Simon.
Molly's daughter Ruth is at first the least interesting of the three women and it took longer to get to know her. Her husband is also the least developed and unpleasantly stereotyped character, but his is a minor role so this doesn't detract from the overall story. In the end it is Ruth, who never knew her grandmother, who finally completes the circle ... but enough said.
I don't agree with reviewers who suggested that only the first story is covered in any detail. I thought Molly's story just as engrossing as Lorna's and was really sorry when the emphasis switched to her daughter, but after a while I became just as interested in Ruth.
Penelope Lively has fast become one of my favourite authors. She writes with such sensitivity and perceptiveness about human relationships and emotions, and her portrayal of grief is such that, as it says on the cover, `grief seeps through the page'. It is not just her characters that you feel you know so well. Without seeming intrusive, the Somerset countryside, the cottage that Matt and Lorna rent, and Lucas's chaotic house in Fulham (`untidy, grubby, unlike other people's homes') are depicted with such attention to detail that you feel next time they're mentioned as if you've been there and are comfortable with them. There is also a sense of time, especially of the pre-war era and its slower, simpler way of life compared with the modern day pace inhabited by Ruth.
Reading some of the negative reviews, it would have been easy to overlook this book but I loved it and was sorry to finish it. Overall I found it engrossing and satisfying.
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