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Passing On


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About the Author

Penelope Lively is the author of many prize-winning novels and short-story collections for both adults and children. She has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize: once in 1977 for her first novel, The Road to Lichfield, and again in 1984 for According to Mark. She later won the 1987 Booker Prize for her highly acclaimed novel Moon Tiger. Her other books include Going Back; Judgement Day; Next to Nature, Art; Perfect Happiness; Passing On; City of the Mind; Cleopatra's Sister; Heat Wave; Beyond the Blue Mountains, a collection of short stories; Oleander, Jacaranda, a memoir of her childhood days in Egypt; Spiderweb; her autobiographical work, A House Unlocked; The Photograph; Making It Up; Consequences; Family Album, which was shortlisted for the 2009 Costa Novel Award, and How It All Began. She is a popular writer for children and has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award. She was appointed CBE in the 2001 New Year's Honours List, and DBE in 2012. Penelope Lively lives in London.


Having won both the Booker Prize (Moon Tiger, LJ 5/15/88) and the Carnegie Medal (The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, 1973), Lively has already proven herself to be one of Britain's finest authors. Passing On simply burnishes this reputation. Once again, she develops her favorite theme: the power of the past to control the present. In this case, the past is a malevolent mother who is being lowered into her grave at the beginning of the book. But if Helen and Edward, middle-aged brother and sister, think that their mother has lost her stranglehold on them by dying, they are wrong. Through Helen's intelligent perception we watch as she and Edward struggle valiantly to lead normal lives. Sheila Mitchell, a respected actress in British theater, television, and radio, reads the story with accomplished skill. As Mitchell lowers her voice slightly to become Edward or speaks softly as Helen, listeners will swear they are sitting with them at the kitchen table in that tomb of a house. In fact, the reading is so convincing that it seems almost like an invasion of privacy to be listening at all. Highly recommended.‘Jo Carr, Sarasota, Fla.

Greystones is a moldy, drafty house of no great distinction located in the equally nondescript English town of Spaxton. The domineering and cantankerous Dorothy Glover has finally passed away, leaving her middle-aged progeny, Helen and Edward, to examine their lives, both past and future. It's a subtle plot and one that does well with Lively's ( The Road to Lichfield ) gently assured style. By revealing developments through small details--the discarded dishrags that mark the beginning of a relationship and the glimpse of a watch that signals its end--she delicately delineates the impact of love, scandal and turmoil. On the rare occasion when Lively gives reign to sweeping statements, as when the dramatic Louise comments on motherhood (``At the moments you wish you were shot of the whole thing you know perfectly well that it's precisely because you couldn't endure to be without it, now you know about it, that you've got to go through all this''), her writing doesn't quite ring true. But such instances are rare in this consistently engrossing tale. (Feb.)

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