"It seems to me that everything that happens to us is a disconcerting mix of choice and contingency." -- Penelope Lively
Penelope Lively CBE, FRSL (born March 17, 1933) is a prolific, popular and critically acclaimed author of fiction for both children and adults. She has been shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize, winning once for Moon Tiger in 1987.
"All I know for certain is that reading is of the most intense importance to me; if I were not able to read, to revisit old favorites and experiment with names new to me, I would be starved - probably too starved to go on writing myself.""Conventional forms of narrative allow for different points of view, but for this book I wanted a structure whereby each of the main characters contributed a distinctive version of the story.""Deep down I have this atavistic feeling that really I should be in the country.""Equally, we require a collective past - hence the endless reinterpretations of history, frequently to suit the perceptions of the present.""Every novel generates its own climate, when you get going.""Getting to know someone else involves curiosity about where they have come from, who they are.""I can walk about London and see a society that seems an absolutely revolutionary change from the 1950s, that seems completely and utterly different, and then I can pick up on something where you suddenly see that it's not.""I didn't think I had anything particular to say, but I thought I might have something to say to children.""I didn't want it to be a book that made pronouncements.""I didn't write anything until I was well over 30.""I do like to embed a fictional character firmly in an occupation.""I have had to empty two family homes during the last few years - first, the house that had been my grandmother's since 1923, and then my own country home, which we had lived in for over twenty years.""I have long been interested in landscape history, and when younger and more robust I used to do much tramping of the English landscape in search of ancient field systems, drove roads, indications of prehistoric settlement.""I rather like getting away from fiction.""I'm intrigued by the way in which physical appearance can often direct a person's life; things happen differently for a beautiful woman than for a plain one.""I'm not an historian and I'm not wanting to write about how I perceive the social change over the century as a historian, but as somebody who's walked through it and whose life has been dictated by it too, as all our lives are.""I'm not an historian but I can get interested - obsessively interested - with any aspect of the past, whether it's palaeontology or archaeology or the very recent past.""I'm now an agnostic but I grew up on the King James version, which I'm eternally grateful for.""I'm writing another novel and I know what I'm going to do after, which may be something more like this again, maybe some strange mixture of fiction and non-fiction.""I've always been fascinated by the operation of memory - the way in which it is not linear but fragmented, and its ambivalence.""It was a combination of an intense interest in children's literature, which I've always had, and the feeling that I'd just have a go and see if I could do it.""Since then, I have just read and read - but, that said, I suppose there is a raft of writers to whom I return again and again, not so much because I want to write like them, even if I were capable of it, but simply for a sort of stylistic shot in the arm.""The consideration of change over the century is about loss, though I think that social change is gain rather than loss.""The Photograph is concerned with the power that the past has to interfere with the present: the time bomb in the cupboard.""The pleasure of writing fiction is that you are always spotting some new approach, an alternative way of telling a story and manipulating characters; the novel is such a wonderfully flexible form.""The present hardly exists, after all-it becomes the past even as it happens. A tricky medium, time - and central to the concerns of fiction.""There's a preoccupation with memory and the operation of memory and a rather rapacious interest in history.""We all need a past - that's where our sense of identity comes from.""We make choices but are constantly foiled by happenstance.""We read Greek and Norse mythology until it came out of our ears. And the Bible.""You learn a lot, writing fiction."
Penelope Low was born in Cairo in 1933. She spent her early childhood in Egypt, before being sent to boarding school in England at the age of twelve. She read Modern History at St Anne's College, Oxford. She married the academic Jack Lively in 1957 and lived with him in Swansea and Oxford, among other places; he died in 1998, and Penelope Lively now lives in north London.
Lively's writing, like that of her peers Margaret Drabble, Nina Bawden, A. S. Byatt and others, is influenced strongly by an awareness of, and a response to, the sweeping social changes that have taken place in Britain in the course of the twentieth century.
Lively first achieved success with her children's fiction. Her first book, Astercote, was published in 1970. Since then, she has published many other books for children, achieving particular recognition with The Ghost of Thomas Kempe (1973) for which she received the Carnegie Medal and with A Stitch in Time (1976) which won her the Whitbread Award for best children's book.
Her first novel for adults, The Road to Lichfield, was published in 1977 and made the shortlist for the Booker Prize. She repeated this feat in 1984 with According to Mark, and eventually won the prize in 1987 with Moon Tiger, which tells the story of a woman's tempestuous life as she lies dying in a hospital bed. As is the case with all of Lively's fiction, the novel is marked by a close attention to the power of memory, the impact of the past upon the present, and the tensions between 'official' and personal histories. These are themes explored more explicitly in such non-fiction titles as A House Unlocked (2001) and Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived (1994), Lively's compelling memoir of her Egyptian childhood.
In addition to writing novels and short stories, Penelope Lively has also written radio and television scripts, presented a radio programme and contributed reviews and articles to various newspapers and journals.