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Lively likes historians. Her most famous novel on this side of the Atlantic, the Booker Prize-winning Moon Tiger, told the story of a popular historian; her latest narrates the quest of a "landscape historian" in search of what Proust called "lost time": the living past of his dead wife. Glyn Peters, a famous British archeologist, discovers a compromising photograph of his wife, Katherine Targett, sealed in an envelope in a closet at home. Peters specializes in excavating the long defunct gardens, buried fields and covered-over roads of the British landscape. Reverting to professional habits, he treats Kath's infidelity as a sort of archeological dig. The photo depicts Kath and Nick Hammond, the husband of Kath's sister, Elaine, surreptitiously holding hands on some outing, with Elaine and Mary Packard, Kath's best friend, in the background. Glyn decides to interview this cloud of witnesses, beginning with Elaine. Elaine is a successful, and somewhat cold, landscaper; Nick, her polar opposite, is a man one degree away from being a Wodehouse dilettante. Lively, who is never shy of letting us know her opinion of her characters (like Trollope), makes her disapprobation of Nick plain. Elaine, after learning of the affair, kicks Nick out. He takes refuge with Polly, their daughter, in London, and goes rapidly downhill. Glyn, meanwhile, has searched out Nick's ex-business partner, Oliver Watson, who took the photograph, and Mary Packard. Lively is always a discerning, keenly intelligent writer. This, for instance, is how she describes, in three irrevocable words, Elaine's pregnancy: "She is pregnant: heavy, hampered, irritable." Unfortunately, Kath, a demon-haunted beauty with little depth, remains unconjurable. Her insubstantiality and the much-foreshadowed nature of her death, not revealed until late in the novel, drains this story of its full emotional impact.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* In Booker Prize winner Lively's stunning novels, the past and present form a yin-yang-like balance, and her keen and agitated characters fall into two camps. One, comprising dogged professionals, is obsessed with imposing order on life, and is driven mad by the other, which consists of more sensitive and improvisatory souls, such as Kath, the dead woman at the center of this elegant yet electrifying tale. As the reader wonders about the nature of Kath's death, Lively, a master of the whip-crack phrase and arch and dissecting humor, craftily reveals the culpability of Kath's survivors: her ambitious husband, Glyn, a renowned landscape historian who can discern subtle evidence of ancient forts yet remains oblivious to his wife's emotions; Kath's frosty older sister, Elaine, a hugely successful garden designer; and Elaine's once "beguiling" now "exasperating" husband, Nick. Kath returns to haunt these smug souls after Glyn finds an incendiary photograph that calls into question everything this little coterie thought they knew about themselves and each other. As lovely but lonely Kath comes into ever sharper focus through the lens of each character's increasingly stressed consciousness, Lively offers provocative musings on work, obsession, the burden of beauty, alienation of affections, and the endless longing for love. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
I really enjoyed this book - however was a little disappointed in the end - I expected a bigger surprise for some reason - the only surprise was how she died & then you begin... Read morePublished on July 19 2004 by Lisa M. Fusco
For all the excellent reviews it got, my expectations were very high. I was very disappointed. The book's plot was not overwhelming interesting, nor were its characters. Read morePublished on July 14 2004 by badkitty
Penelope Lively's "The Photograph" moved me to the very depths of my soul. I can't rate this book high enough. Read morePublished on July 9 2004
Penelope Lively is a world treasure. I've now read "Moon Tiger" twice and given it to dozens of friends. "The Photograph" stands right along side. Read morePublished on July 5 2004 by Tom O'Leary
I found this book to be a dispassionate account of a pedantic researcher who methodically seeks to fill in the blanks of his wife's relationships. Read morePublished on July 1 2004