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Moon Tiger

A book by Penelope Lively

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Extraordinarily well-written portrait of an unappealing character

  • Jan 11, 2010
Rating:
+1
"Moon Tiger", for which the author won the Booker prize, is a book that I could admire, but not like. The main protagonist, Claudia Hampton, an accomplished historian, lies dying in a London hospital bed and looks back upon her life. The resulting series of first-person flashbacks, interspersed with third-person accounts of the same episodes, coalesce into a tightly constructed kaleidoscopic view of Claudia's life which is impressive for the skill with which it is achieved, but ultimately left me unmoved.

My fundamental problem with the book is that Claudia is such a self-satisfied narcissist that I tired of the recital of her various accomplishments and the smug superiority with which lesser characters in her history (her unfortunate sister-in-law, her disappointingly conventional daughter) are dismissed. Lively is no fool, and attempts to mitigate Claudia's unrelenting smugness with a brief episode of vulnerability and genuine emotion during a doomed World War II romance with a British tank commander who is subsequently killed in battle. The jacket cover inflates this episode by describing it as "the still point of her turning world", but the problem is that it fails to ring true. Ultimately, the version of Claudia that dominates the narrative is that of the smug, superior harpie. To whom my reaction was - why should anyone possibly care?

So, while I can admire the skill with which this book was written, the emotional vacuum at its core ultimately left me cold.

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More Moon Tiger reviews
review by . May 08, 2013
A fearlessly driven novel that shows the power of memory in all its audacious splendor.
Winner of the 1987 Booker Prize, Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger is a contemporary pitch-perfect crafted novel that reverberates around the dying Claudia Hampton, a best selling author of popular history. Dying from cancer in a London hospital, she is forced into the cell of her bed, but while her body is severly restricted, her soul and consciousness are free, far from the repression of illness and medicinal injections. With that freedom, the independent Claudia takes a journey unlike any that …
review by . August 25, 2008
Winner of the 1987 Booker Prize, Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger is a contemporary pitch-perfect crafted novel that reverberates around the dying Claudia Hampton, a best selling author of popular history. Dying from cancer in a London hospital, she is forced into the cell of her bed, but while her body is severly restricted, her soul and consciousness are free, far from the repression of illness and medicinal injections. With that freedom, the independent Claudia takes a journey unlike any that she …
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Lively recently won Britain's prestigious Booker Prize for this deeply moving, elegantly structured novel. The heroine is Claudia Hampton, an unconventional historian and former war correspondent who lies in a hospital bed dying of cancer. Forced inward, Claudia moves randomly across time and place to reconstruct the strata of her life. But "most lives have their core, their kernel, the vital centre"; Claudia's is the brief, tragic encounter she had in Egypt during the war with Tom Southern, a British tank officer on leave from battle. Tom's voice, along with those of her brother and daughter, joins Claudia's to shape a narrative that is a complex, intricately composed fugue. This haunting evocation of loss is Lively's finest achievement yet.Laurence Hull, Cannon Memorial Lib., Concord, N.C.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Details

ISBN-10: 0802135331
ISBN-13: 978-0802135339
Author: Penelope Lively
Publisher: Grove Press

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