A memoir of a house in Somerset: Golsoncott, which Penelope Lively's grandparents bought in 1923, and which stayed in the family until 1975. Penelope Lively traces the history of the house, its inhabitants and in doing so charts social and cultural changes over the 20th century.
'I thought that I would see if the private life of a house could be made to bear witness to the public traumas of a century'. Here Penelope Lively recalls Golsoncott, the country house in Somerset her grandparents bought in 1923. Through the sometimes strange, unfamiliar articles there - the gong stand, the picnic rug, the potted meat jars and bon bon dishes - she charts the social changes and transforming moments of the twentieth century. Changing attitudes to social class, the tension between town and country, how one learns to see the world: all are examined in this eloquent, fascinating memoir.
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The Booker-winning novelist Penelope Lively spent much of her childhood in Egypt, but this second installment of her memoirs concentrates on recollecting time spent in her family's country house in Somerset. By taking us back to its original purchase by her grandparents in 1923, she makes the scope of the book almost a survey of the century - and writes with a view to detailing socio-historical changes of wider resonance, rather than to producing straight autobiography or family history. The result is an interestingly unusual mixture, moving almost seamlessly from reflections on objects in the house to accounts of eccentric uncles to the Romantics' 'discovery' of the Quantocks. And from the stays in the house of various refugees (including those from Soviet Russia and London during the Blitz) to changing attitudes concerning childrearing in the 1950s. It's the quality of the writing and Lively's eye for detail that are most engaging in this distinguished and least self-obsessed of memoirs.
About Penelope Lively
Penelope Lively is the author of many prize-winning novels and short story collections for adults and children, including the 1987 Booker Prize for Moon Tiger. She has also won the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award. She is a Fellow of the RoyalSociety of Literature. She was married to the late Professor Jack Lively, has two children and four grandchildren, and lives in London.
A House Unlocked by Penelope Lively
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