Cover image for The road to Lichfield
The road to Lichfield
Lively, Penelope, 1933-
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Grove Weidenfeld, 1991.
Physical Description:
215 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
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Author Notes

Penelope Lively has written over 18 books for children, and over 15 titles for adults, distinguishing herself on both levels. Among the awards she has received are the coveted Booker Prize for the adult novel "Moon Tiger" (1987) and the Carnegie Medal for the highly acclaimed juvenile work, "The Ghost of Thomas Kempe" (1973).

In Lively's writing, for both adults and children, the recurrent theme is interpreting the past through exploring the function of memory. "My particular preoccupation as a writer is with memory. Both with memory in the historical sense and memory in the personal sense."

Beginning her writing career in the early 1970's, Lively wrote exclusively for children for over a decade. Because children have limited memories, devices were used to explore their perceptions of the past, such as ghosts in "Uninvited Ghosts and Other Stories" (1985), and a sampler in "A Stitch in Time' (1976). Lively's first adult novel, "The Road to Lichfield" (1977) was the result of turning to an older audience when she felt inspiration running out. Her adult novels include "Passing On" (1995), the story of a mother's legacy to her children and 'Oleander, Jacarandi: A Childhood Perceived' (1994) which is a memoir of Lively's childhood.

Penelope (Low) Lively, born March 17, 1933 in Cairo, Egypt, had a most unusual childhood. She grew up in Cairo with no formal education until age 12, when her family put her in boarding school in England. After earning a B.A. in history at Oxford in 1955, she married Jack Lively, a university professor, whom she calls her most useful critic. They have a son and a daughter, Adam and Josephine.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A flawless novel about the role of the past by one of Britain's best. As you read Lively's perfect sentences, certain phrases light up: e.g., "a scum of insects" on a windshield, a "landscape aching under a cold spring wind," or the "grey, foam-marbled sea." The physical world reflects the emotions of her reticent, disciplined, and often unhappy characters. Anne's father is dying. He lives in Lichfield, some distance from Anne's proper suburban household replete with two children and solicitor husband. On summer holiday from history-teaching duties, Anne drives to Lichfield alone to visit him in the nursing home and tidy up his vacant house. Her father drifts in a beautifully evoked limbo of dreams, memories, and confusion while Anne discovers how little she knew of him and falls in love with a neighbor. Like Lively's Booker Prize-winning novel, Moon Tiger [BKL Ap 15 88], this earlier work (first published in England in 1977) explores the meaning of the past, as it is here linked to a meditation on marriages gone cold. ~--Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Lively's growing audience of discriminating readers will welcome the belated U.S. publication of her first novel, issued in England in 1977. This quiet but moving book betrays few earmarks of the neophyte: Lively's economical yet evocative use of language, her preoccupation with history as a force in individual lives, and her dry wit are all in evidence here. The year she turns 40, two crises interrupt Anne Linton's orderly routine as the wife of an uncommunicative and slightly boring solicitor, mother of two teenagers, and part-time teacher of history. Her father's terminal illness necessitates her frequent traveling to Litchfield in the Midlands from her Berkshire home, and throws her into contact with schoolmaster David Fielding, with whom she begins an affair. On the surface her existence remains the same, but as she discovers a major secret in her father's life and pursues a clandestine life of her own, she must acknowledge the subjective nature of memories and reassess her own attitudes about the past. She is moved to question her involvement with a group of architectural preservationists who fight the demolition of old buildings, no matter how decrepit and useless, and turn antique artifacts into chic decorative objects. (Lively goes a bit overboard in her portrayal of one character who is obsessed with doing good--``a prettier woman would have taken up adultery''--but her humor has bite.) (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This is Lively's first novel, originally published in England in 1977. It centers around British housewife Anne, whose father is dying in a nursing home. Anne goes to see him, in Lichfield, and in the process of cleaning out his house discovers that her father was someone she hadn't known well at all. ``I knew my father in one dimension only,'' she realizes. Her relationships with her husband, brother, and lover might be similarly described. Lively's prose is clean and readable. This novel will appeal to people who are familiar with her recent works and to those who enjoy well-written stories that convey a message without beating the reader over the head. Recommended.-- Mary Prokop, CEL Regional Lib . , Savannah, Ga. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.