Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Ammonites and Leaping Fish by Penelope Lively

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

I was on holiday in the Lake District last week, overlooking Esthwaite Water. There were two shelves of books in our apartment and one of them was Ammonites and Leaping Fish: a Life in Time by Penelope Lively, so I read it whilst we were away. I’ll write more about it in a later post (although I’ve not been keeping up with reviewing the books I’ve read this summer).

This is not quite a memoir. Rather it is a view from old age.

And a view of old age itself, this place at which we arrive with a certain surprise – ambushed, or so it can seem. The view from eighty for me. One of the few advantages of age is that you can report on it with a certain authority; you are a native now and know what goes on here.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

When I was on the other side of the Atlantic a few years ago staying with my best friend in America, she produced a photo she had found of the two of us taken in the early 1980s. We gazed at it with surprised respect; ‘Weren’t we young!’ said Betty. Actually verging on middle age, but never mind – our reaction was in perfect accord: an acknowledgement of those other selves.

Penelope Lively is one of my favourite authors and I’ve been reading her books for years, all of them are enjoyable and this one is no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Synopsis from Amazon:

In this charming but powerful memoir, Penelope Lively reports from beyond the horizon of old age. She describes what old age feels like for those who have arrived there and considers the implications of this new demographic. She looks at the context of a life and times, the history and archaeology that is actually being made as we live out our lives in real time, in her case World War II; post war penny-pinching Britain; the Suez crisis; the Cold War and up to the present day. She examines the tricks and truths of memory. She looks back over a lifetime of reading and writing. And finally she looks at her identifying cargo of possessions – two ammonites, a cat, a pair of American ducks and a leaping fish sherd, amongst others. This is an elegant, moving and deeply enjoyable memoir by one of our most loved writers.

5 thoughts on “Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Ammonites and Leaping Fish by Penelope Lively

  1. What a fascinating look at life as we age, Margaret. It sounds as though it’s almost as much philosophical as memoir, and that can really be interesting. I hope you’ll enjoy it.


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