~Read Book ☪ Moon Tiger ♶ The Elderly Claudia Hampton, A Best Selling Author Of Popular History Lies Alone In A London Hospital Bed Memories Of Her Life Still Glow In Her Fading Consciousness, But She Imagines Writing A History Of The World Instead, Moon Tiger Is Her Own History, The Life Of A Strong, Independent Woman, With Its Often Contentious Relations With Family And Friends At Its Center Forever Frozen In Time, The Still Point Of Her Turning World Is The Cruelly Truncated Affair With Tom, A British Tank Commander Whom Claudia Knew As A Reporter In Egypt During World War II
Claudia Hampton speaks to me of wars fought in distant lands, of the ever persistent forward march of humanity in the quest for collective betterment, of stories unknowingly buried forever in the catacombs of time and never unearthed, of the people we carry in our hearts wherever we go, of the history of the world intertwined with our own Claudia tries to make sense of the cacophony of voices inside her head and outside, of conflicting opinions colliding violently creating sparks that burn down empires, turn to rubble the foundation of regimes Claudia tells me a story of the past melded with the present Claudia s history of the world isn t one sided She accedes, to all the players involved, their right to speak for themselves, to say that which has been coldly snubbed by the opinionated historian of the past Claudia does not look at past events through the lenses of established notions, of opinions passed off as indisputable facts Larger than life heroes are reduced to the status of mere mortals in her eyes, violent uprisings become a trigger for devastating tragedies instead of turning points in the history of a nation s struggle for liberty Images of a world war become indiscernible from the images of her lover who dies fighting in it and the entailing heartbreak she could never purge from her memories no matter how hard she tried The unyielding bond she shares with her brother Gordon, her rival, her biggest critic, her most devoted admirer, and in the end her lover, remains intact even after he is no longer there to provoke her, to argue with her relentlessly, to urge her on towards becoming arefined version of herselfFor there are moments, out here in this place and at this time, when she feels that she is untethered, no longer hitched to past or future or to a known universe but adrift in the cosmosClaudia never became what others wanted her to be, stubbornly trudging along a path forged by none but herself She loved the daughter born out of wedlock dearly, but from afar, without the grand show of affection expected of any mother And as she lies in that hospital bed, her life force slowly ebbing away, a frail old woman of 76, misunderstood by the ones dearest to her, my heart weeps for the grief that she kept carefully hidden from everyone, a secret she carried to her grave But I bid her farewell with a smile, soothed by the knowledge that her life was, after all, a life well lived. A very personal take on history If I ever met Ms Penelope Lively, it d go one of two ways I d embarrass myself, falling over her with syrupy praise, thanking her with babbling, awkward effusiveness for creating such a masterpiece OR I d tell her with the bitterness of a withered crone that reading this book dampened every hope I had of writing something even close to its equal in impact, beauty or originality She has raised the literary bar, HIGH.It s a double edged sword when you re a writer, and you read something you wish you d written yourself.This book is all about history the biological history of the world, the history of textbooks, the history of our ancestors We bring our history with us knowingly or not how we interpret it, remember it, and change as a result of it is very individual This novel starts off with Claudia, an old woman on her deathbed, who announces she is writing a history of the world A famous historian in her younger life, it still preoccupies her in old age the way the countless stories of what came before informs each person s present.History may be pared down to facts in books, but the truth of it, the life of it, varies, depending who is doing the telling Lively demonstrates this so well by writing certain scenes several times over, from alternating points of view Not only the experience is different but the memory also varies from person to person, showing history to be fluid and subjective, a tricky thing indeed Because she knows she s dying, Claudia is concerned with what her history will be She can t help but wonder how she will be remembered after she is gone, with the distinct possibility of being misrepresented or summed up derivatively when the truth is farcomplex.Her story is anything but simple She tells it collage style, in non chronological order, focusing on the important people in her life, and a mixture of both pivotal and mundane moments She s not that likeable She s beautiful another vivacious redhead to add to the collection , wickedly intelligent, and quite an empowered feminist figure But she s vain, often unkind, and pretty inadequate as a parent Her story, despite being told in fragments, is one of the most believable, multi dimensional life stories I have read The irony is, no one will be able to re tell what happened in Claudia s life just right All we have from the past are approximations at best Life cannot be captured, in all its facets, on the page But the joy is, we keep trying.4.5 starsThis was going to be a raving, unhesitating 5 star review for me until WARNING spoilers and a bit of a rant ahead view spoiler Claudia and her brother have sex I got a whiff of incest vibes early on in the novel mentions of Pharaonic siblings as lovers as well as the exotic behaviours of those in classical times I could handle the too close atmosphere between these competitive siblings, but I really could have done without Claudia s brother poking her in the crotch to demonstrate the birds and the bees, drawing all over her naked body in pen, and generally, their whole sexual relationship I did not find it added to the story It baffled methan anything It made me less invested in her real love story with Tom Southern because she had this other, weirder,intense, lifelong relationship with her brother.As an aside, I am genuinely curious to understand why so many authors use incest as a literary theme I have read many books The Secret History, Middlesex, The Prince of Tides, and others this year alone that feature incest as a theme or in the plot, and I wonder, why Is consensual, mutual incest something that happens often enough to merit its prominence in literature Or is it a shocking device that adds a je ne sais quoi to the narrative, bringing it up a notch I think I ll just re write history, and pretend the whole Claudia Gordon thing never happened My five star rating can rest much easier that way hide spoiler Utterly compelling historical novel that plays with time and perspective in fascinating ways Claudia Hampton sets out to tell the history of the world And she does exactly that Only it s her own private world she describes, with all its secrets Lively does a masterful job of shifting perspectives on various scenes, telling it first from one character s perspective, then another s, and on shifting and jumbling Claudia s sense of time, because as an old woman looking back on her life, she sees the past not as chronology but as a jumbled up mess of stories and moods Still there is a strong story arc here, along with a vivid sense of place Having lived in Egypt myself, I especially appreciated the descriptions of wartime Cairo.Lively s prose is always true to her name This is the first book I ve read by her, but it will certainly not be the last This is a terrific novel. Wow Just wow The nerdiness quotient in how I picked this book up is off the charts it was quoted in an article I was reading for my thesis but I can honestly say I have rarely made so wise a geeky decision To read the summary on the back in a bookstore, I doubt I would have decided to read it An old woman dying alone in a hospital reflects on her life Call that a picker upper But the way she constructs her life viewing it as a historian Weaving the history of the world into her own existence Seeing history not as dates and names but an extension of her own consciousness, a reflection of her experiences Amazingly and beautifully written I wanted to take down every other line as a quote I m sure my love of this book is slightly colored by the fact that the main character is a historian and sees the world accordingly, but I maintain that anyone can enjoy this book Her reflections on life aren t told chronologically,like little anecdotes sprinkled throughout the main story surrounding her deathbed If done less well, this would make for a confusing and frustrating piece But Lively makes it remarkably easy to follow her character s train of thought as she moves from one memory to the next and then back to the present I can t say enough about this book As soon as I reached chapter 2 I knew it was going to be one of my all time favorites. I liked this when it wasn t posturing But I felt it postured a lot And largely fell short of its admirable ambitions I generally felt Lively is probably aconservative novelist at heart and this was her attempt at pushing back her boundaries, the literary equivalent of an habitually conventional woman suddenly dyeing her hair jet black and wearing stilettos to the supermarket It s like the work of a writer who has just read and been shaken out of her comfort zone by Virginia Woolf Tiger Moon is largely narrated by Claudia as she lies dying in a nursing home, sometimes in the first person and sometimes in the third Now and again it strays off into the head of one of the other characters but generally these only reinforce Claudia s perspective and struck me as consistently clumsy It s an attempt on her part to identify and organise into a last will and testament all the pivotal moments in her life in the context of history A strange and off putting element of this book for me was how relentlessly we re told Claudia is beautiful often the other voices are called in with the sole purpose of confirming this obsessive notion of Claudia s and Lively s It began to grate on my nerves, like witnessing a friend post self pleasuring selfies every day on social media I soon began to see her not as a beautiful woman but as a woman who desperately wants to be beautiful In other words, insecure and given to theshallow cries of her nature In fact, I began to wonder if Claudia wasn t a bit delusional She s not as clever as she seems to think she is either This presents itself as a novel of ideas but they are largely ideas we ve heard before and which have been expressedeloquently, dramatizedeffectively Essentially, the war between subjective truth and objective hearsay But a big problem here for me was that, as I said, Claudia often comes across as defensively delusional This might have been interesting had Lively realised she had an unreliable narrator on her hands but I felt Lively bought into Claudia s testimony as lucid argument instead of the smokescreens of an unhappy woman who throughout life makes a point of rendering herself unlikeable to other women She has no female friend throughout the book and is contemptuous of her mother, sister in law and even her own daughter Only men, it seems, can animate her The clue to her hardened crust and exaggerated vanity might be the incestuous relationship she has with her brother but Lively throws this detail into the narrative as if it s merely another exotic feather of Claudia s plumage Then there s the material itself which for me is sometimes clumsily or randomly chosen and rendered Claudia is a popular historian but has no field of expertise Bafflingly she writes a book about the Mexicans and the Aztecs There s no inkling of what leads her to choose this rather obscure subject Neither did it make any sense to me in the context of the novel In fact, I never believed in her as historian Just seemed a laziness on Lively s part, choosing the vocation that most neatly fits the novel s theme Towards the end we get a new character, Lazlo and the less said about him the better Though he enables Claudia to bring Hungary and the cold war into the narrative Then there s a large section of the love of her life s war diary It s very well written but again seems somehow out of place Claudia is wilfully obnoxious throughout the novel She prides herself on being supercilious and dismissive The implication is that she was likeable until her lover died in the war As if but for his death she might have lived happily ever afterward Another idea I was far from buying So the history of the world Claudia sets out to write ends up being shorn down to the Aztec wars, the second world war in Egypt, and the Russian invasion of Hungary Certainly an eccentric choice of representational events for any history of the world I liked a lot the way Lively writes but my feeling was she s no groundbreaker as a novelist and this is kind of Virginia Woolf lite Claudia seemed too much like some kind of fantasy alter ego to me I d be interested to read a less ambitious novel by her, one in which she s less enamoured with trying to be clever andemotionally honest About 3.7 stars. This is one of these situations where I just loved this book so much that I don t think my review will be able to contain all my enthusiasm for it It is only now, I realise how close I came to never reading this It is not really a book that advertises exactly what it is, I had vague notions of romance and grumpy old people It feels somehow eclipsed by other books in the annuls of Booker history I do feel indignant on behalf of Lively that this book, written a full 5 years before The English Patient seems to cover similar ground but in a writing style that I deemwarmly accessible and yet still deceptively clever However, I guess we should be happy she won the 1987 Booker Prize and is now gettingattention because of the Golden Man Booker ironically it is up against The English Patient there is no question in my mind as to which is the better book It is just immensely impressive to me what Lively achieves in the space of 225 pages The scope, ambition and execution ofMoon Tigeris spectacular It is told from multiple points of view, although predominantly from the spiky but outrageously funny Claudia The story of her life told not chronologically butlike one of those mind map diagrams It seems to me to reflect perfectly how ones own memories work, jumping from childhood to events far distant and back again You will be astonished how, Ancient Egypt, the voyage of the Mayflower, the Hungarian revolution of 1956, Cortes conquest of the Aztecs and desert warfare in North Africa during WWII are all knitted into tiny but critical aspects of Claudias life Typically all this jumping around in time and voice usually would annoy the hell out of me Lively seamlessly makes it all work I want to hand this book out in MFA courses and say look here young writers, study well, this is a master wordsmith in actionMoon Tigerended up, for me, being just a lovely bit of unexpected genius Claudia perhaps one of my all time favourite female characters, monstrous, and magnificent all at once It is a rare book that can convey the passage of an entire life, credibly and remarkably on such a small canvas how did she manage that I want to read it again immediately to find out. As soon as I read the synopsis of Moon Tiger I knew I was going to enjoy it An elderly woman in her hospital bed, dying of cancer, recaps the story of her life, and a very interesting life at that I liked Claudia very much She had her faults but she was also captivating, intelligent and larger than life The author writes beautifully and her descriptions of Egypt made me feel as if I was there The piece towards the end when Claudia reads Tom s description of the war in the desert is an incredibly realistic narrative of war as it is suffered by the men on the ground.I am amazed that I have not read anything by this author before, but now that I have read one I will be back for . The narrator announces this is to be a history of the world What she means, we soon learn, is that it will be a history of the world as experienced by her We have all been exposed at certain times of our life to moments of history which mysteriously remain an essential part of who we are Perhaps a childhood visit to Hampton Court, a passage in a school history book about Cleopatra, a documentary about an archaeologist hell bent on finding the remains of Troy moments that are like portals allowing us to connect to a larger history We haunt history and history haunts us, at least certain moments of it You could say we read for the same reason Claudia, a historian and journalist, self centred, vain and not hugely likeable to begin with, is dying in a hospice bed when we meet her The moon tiger is a mosquito coil that slowly burns down into grey dust What she recounts is a kaleidoscopic history of all the memorable moments in her life This turns out to be a personal history of most of the 20th century, including a dazzling account of Egypt during WW2 It s an elegantly structured novel which obeys a similar unchronological logic as the vagaries of memory itself Some recollections obviously important, like falling in love others less easily yielding of their significance This is one of the very clever elements of this book her mixing of the epiphanies with the seemingly banal and then showing how the banal often has its own alchemy and acquires resonant meaning At the heart of the novel is perhaps the idea that one form of hell is to feel we will leave the world misrepresented we all learn in arguments with our spouses or mothers how infuriating this feeling can be It s as if Claudia is preparing her defence before meeting with God on Judgement day A terrific achievement and thanks Julie for sending Ms Lively my way. TheI think about and talk about this book, theimpressed I am by it It won the Man Booker Prize in 1987 but had bad reviews It was selected as the book from the 1980s to go up for the Golden Man Booker Prize this year, and despite the fact that it didn t ultimately win, I feel like that process put it back on the radar for a lot of us First I was standing in line waiting for another book to be signed when another reader podcaster brought it up, and then last night I was having some reading ennui yesterday and started poking around my favorites list in Hoopla, and the book came up both times I am not one to ignore signs from the universe on books I am supposed to be reading, so I downloaded it and read it that night A lot of female authors in the 21st century receive acclaim for daring to write unlikeable characters But Penelope Lively already showed how this can be done The trick is not to make the reader not like them, but to show how they might be unlikeable to the people around them, while the reader finds herself completely on their side Self centred Probably Aren t we all Why is it a term of accusation That is what it was when I was a child I was considered difficult Impossible, indeed, was the word sometimes used I didn t think I was impossible at all it was mother and nurse who were impossible, with their injunctions and their warnings, their obsessions with milk puddings and curled hair and their terror of all that was inviting about the natural world high trees and deeper water and the texture of wet grass on bare feet, the allure of mud and snow and fire I always ached burned to go higher and faster and further They admonished, I disobeyed This section is very early in the narrative and I was immediately sold and in her hands forever Who hasn t felt this way as a woman And who as a woman hasn t had the word difficult used about them as if it were the worst thing you could be Ah, it cut deep in my own experience at least.Claudia, the main character, is not interested in what other people think This moves through her childhood in how she behaves and in her relationship with her brother It moves into her education and career as she declares she will be a war correspondent, and live in Egypt during WWII It extends past her romances with men, while unmarried, into her fling that leaves her pregnant She has a child but never feels particularly maternal The book starts with her in her death bed, and from time to time the narrative returns there, including a particularly honest and memorable moment between mother and daughter She despises her brother s wife, who is her opposite All of this is going on while time moves back and forth, as does the point of view Sometimes Claudia is spoken of in the 3rd person while it usually has Claudia speaking in the 1st person Sometimes the same scene segment will replay from a different character s perspective, providing information from that person that Claudia could not have included, either because she is not aware of the piece of information or hasn t noticed it Because, remember, she is selfish It really worked for me, I m so glad I read it, I want to read it again, and I will go looking forof her books.