WHAT ARE YOU READING?
An elderly woman lies dying in hospital. Nurses tiptoe around her in a poor-old-dear sort of way. They’re not sure who she is – who she was – they think she may have ‘been someone’ once. The doctor looks at his notes and says she wrote books and newspaper articles and probably, yes, Claudia Hampton probably was someone. Once. And meanwhile the woman in the bed is planning one of her books. It is a history of the world. And of herself.
I’d never read Penelope Lively before a friend passed Moon Tiger on to me with the judgment that it was ‘okay’. I’d just come through reading several novels that came with reams of critical praise and the sense that they all had invented literature, but that I’d found rather disappointing. ‘Okay’ seemed like something I could handle.
But Moon Tiger, which won the Booker Prize in 1987, is more than okay. It is a glorious novel of life and death, of history global and personal, of love and loss. Tragic and triumphant, hertbreaking and humorous, and filled with characters who are none of them perfect but all of them real. Rather like the world in which they live.