Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively- Book Review

Moon Tiger was actually a book I saw recommended on Goodreads, again I didn’t really pay attention to the plot I just liked the title.  But, as it turns out, it’s the plot of all my favourite books!  Claudia Hampton is old and dying in hospital, and is planning to write ‘a history of the world’.  She is after all a famous history writer and former war correspondent.  But this history of the world is actually her own history, somehow inexorably linked.

The story weaves it’s way forwards and backwards through her memories, and then back to hospital in the present day. She remembers her childhood;

But Gordon and I, aged eleven and ten, had never heard of Darwin; our concept of time was personal and semantic (tea-time, dinner-time, last time, wasting time.

And her relationship with her brother Gordon is hot and cold, she describes it as narcissistic love as she sees so much of herself in him, and in this way seems to rationalize their incestuous behaviour.  Although their relationship is a main theme of her past, the more shocking elements are only briefly suggested.  It’s her love affair with Tom, who she met in wartime Egypt and who died there that seems to have the greater effect on her, certainly she did not seem to leave the war unscathed.

The other players in the story; her daughter, her lover, her pseudo-adopted son, her brother and his wife are given their voice too.  The same events are told from Claudia’s point of view and the other characters which I thought worked well.  Although the story is Claudia’s really and everything centres around her.

The signals of my own past come from the received past.  The lives of others slot into my own life: I, me, Claudia H.

I liked this book, although found our protagonist a little tough to take at times, although she acknowledges she wasn’t the most nurturing mother she also constantly criticises her daughter.  She is also fairly awful to, and about, her sister-in-law which annoyed me.  I felt Sylvia was a little hard done to.

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