The Photograph

The Photograph

3.3 (4,006 ratings by Goodreads)
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A seductive and hugely suspenseful novel about what can happen when you look too closely into the past; The Photograph is the thirteenth novel by Booker Prize winning author Penelope Lively. Searching through a little-used cupboard at home, Glyn Peters chances upon a photograph he has never seen before. Taken in high summer, many years earlier, it shows his wife, Kath, holding hands with another man. Glyn's work as a historian should have inured him to unexpected findings and reversals, but he is ill-prepared for this radical shift in perception. His mind fills with questions. Who was the man? Who took the photograph? Where was it taken? When? Had Kath planned for him to find out all along? As Glyn begins to search for answers, he, and those around him, find the certainties of the past and present slip away, and the picture of the beautiful woman they all thought they knew distort. 'One of Britain's most talented and experienced writers. The closer you look the more mystery you see' The Times 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 more

Product details

  • Paperback | 240 pages
  • 128 x 192 x 18mm | 181.44g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0141011947
  • 9780141011943
  • 156,229

Review quote

One of Lively's most satisfying novels: cleverly conceived, artfully constructed and executed with high intelligence and sensitivity. ("Los Angeles Times") An ingenious premise for a novel and Penelope Lively... spins it out with expert skill. ("The Washington Post") Engrossing... engaging. ("San Francisco Chronicle") Lively's [novel] maintains the high standard her fans have come to expect. It's another shining winner. ("The Boston Globe") Original... bracingly intelligent. Rarely has a subject as elusive as life's messiness been pursued with such unflagging rigor. ("The Atlantic Monthly")show more

About Penelope Lively

Penelope Lively has written many prize-winning novels for adults and children. They include The Road to Lichfield, According To Mark. Moon Tiger (which won the 1987 Booker Prize), Heatwave and Spiderweb. Penelope Lively lives in London more

Review Text

Three people believed they 'knew' Kath: her husband Glyn, a successful landscape historian, her older sister Elaine, a garden designer, and Elaine's lackadaisical husband Nick. But all three had very different experiences of the same woman. Kath has been dead for some years when one day Glyn, rummaging through some old papers, comes across an envelope with a direction in Kath's handwriting: 'Don't open. Destroy.' Of course, Glyn opens it - and finds a photograph of Kath holding hands with Nick. As he looks back, trying to make sense of the past, he sees how detached his marriage was, superficially comfortable but full of lacunae. He'd been, he now realizes, remarkably incurious about what Kath did during his absences: she always seemed happy enough.... To Elaine and Nick too Kath was what they saw and accepted, but now the ground under their feet has shifted and they must reassess not just Kath but themselves and their connections with each other. Penelope Lively's elegant use of the English language is a joy, and her characters, who on the surface appear 'ordinary', have depths, privacies and eccentricities that make them unique, and sometimes puzzle those nearest to them - or, more dangerously, are simply accepted and ignored. The story does not end when the reader finishes reading it. It stays in the mind, the characters still developing and changing. And it raises the question - how well do we ourselves know those closest to us? A serious analysis of life, people and experience? Yes, but there are many lighter moments: Penelope Lively has a delicious, sometimes sly, sense of humour. Elaine's professional visits to Open Gardens to judge competitions, and her private thoughts on the subject behind a po-faced exterior, are hilarious, and minor characters are sketched briefly but brilliantly. A short novel, packed with more ideas than many twice its length. (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

4,006 ratings
3.3 out of 5 stars
5 12% (470)
4 32% (1,268)
3 37% (1,463)
2 15% (618)
1 5% (187)
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