The Photograph

The Photograph

3.31 (4,249 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Hardback

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Description

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.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 138 x 216 x 26mm | 399.16g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • VIKING
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 0670913928
  • 9780670913923

Review Text

A beautiful woman continues beyond death to fascinate her survivors, in this 16th novel from the Booker-winning British author (Spiderweb, 1999, etc.) also well known for her children's fantasy fiction. The neatly turned plot is initiated by 60ish landscape historian Glyn Peters's discovery (in an envelope marked "don't open-destroy") of a photograph showing his late wife Kath in a pose of obvious intimacy with her brother-in-law. Glyn, accustomed to "excavating" the truth about people from structures they leave behind, shares this unwelcome information, producing seismic tremors in several interlocking relationships. Kath's older sister Elaine, a sophisticated "garden designer," abruptly dismisses the errant Nick, a vagrant freelance journalist and lifelong underachiever, from their home, and their marriage. Their single daughter Polly, a distracted Web designer, tries and fails to make her parents reconcile. Glyn, meanwhile, questions old friends who might also have been Kath's lovers, including arts festival exec Peter Claverdon (who's gay) and publisher Oliver Watson (who took the offending photograph, but is otherwise innocent). Eventually, reclusive potter Mary Packard, who appears to have known the willful, probably unstable Kath better than any of them, arrives as a dea ex machina to reveal the motives behind Kath's partially secret life. Lively handles this oddly unremarkable story skillfully, building a teasing fragmentary portrait of Kath from others' memories of her-while clearly developing her manifest theme: the unknowability and mystery of other people's lives. Only in the characterization of Elaine, a confident and capable woman sentient enough to understand and accept her own limitations, do the wit, constructive skill, and verbal facility lavished on what's really a very slight story bear significant fruit. Always a pleasure to watch a pro at work, but Lively has done better than this. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Author information

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), HEAT WAVE and SPIDERWEB. Penelope Lively lives in London N1.show more

Rating details

4,249 ratings
3.31 out of 5 stars
5 12% (506)
4 32% (1,363)
3 36% (1,538)
2 15% (646)
1 5% (196)
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