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Penelope Lively
Adult Fiction LIVELY

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From Publishers' Weekly:

While Lively's novels always reflect the ironies that life delivers to people looking elsewhere at the time, their insights generally occur in subtle, satisfying observations about society and human nature. Here again she writes of a woman whose interpretation of events is distorted by inbred expectations and the failure to see clearly. Newly retired, unmarried and childless, social anthropologist Stella Brentwood buys a cottage in England's West Country, a region of stolid farmers and bucolic charm. Yet she finds it difficult to settle in: for a professional observer who easily integrated herself into communities in Egypt, Malta and the Orkney Islands, she feels oddly unmoored in her native land. Two people with whom she reestablishes contact‘the widowed husband of her best friend at Oxford and a former colleague, a female archeologist‘awaken memories of Stella's youth, of her one great love, another man who wanted to marry her and the demands of a peripatetic life that prevented her from establishing bonds or maintaining commitment. As Stella adopts a dog, learns about such local institutions as the general store and ruminates on the passage of time and the long shadow of past decisions, she remains unaware of the whirlwind of verbal abuse and simmering violence in the house just down the lane, where an emotionally deranged woman, her husband and her damaged adolescent sons are time bombs about to impact on Stella's life. Lively wisely avoids melodrama in the denouement, choosing instead to suggest Stella's poignant realization that her detachment, independence and self-sufficiency will determine her future as well as her past. Though the leisurely pace and purposefully digressive narrative are somewhat slow to build suspense, Lively's perceptive vision about the insularity of modern life rings true. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Anthropologist Stella Brentwood, who has lived in tents, mud huts, and tiny studio apartments, is about to retire, so she buys a cottage in Somerset, England, and sets about learning to live the country life. Of course, Stella is still an anthropologist, observing the strange customs of her neighborsÄa point Lively (The Five Thousand and One Nights, LJ 1/96) has the grace and good sense to state up front. In the process, Stella gets reacquainted with the husband of her oldest friend, now dead, whose life was decidedly more domestic. (There's some room here for comparing fates, but it's hardly strident or ideological.) Stella also has occasion to encounter her neighbors, a family that seems far more uncivilized and violent than any Stella may have encountered during her work. Stella's new life is, predictably, shattered by a terrible incident involving this family. Lively makes her point, but the pieces of this story don't quite fit. Stella's slow settling into country life is nicely told, but her neighbors never seem quite believable in their ugliness; they're more a device. Buy where Lively is popular.ÄBarbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Stella Brentwood
Age: 65

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