A House Unlocked

Front Cover
Penguin Adult, Jun 27, 2002 - Business & Economics - 240 pages
2 Reviews

Penelope Lively has turned her considerable literary talent to non-fiction with A House Unlocked, a marvellous, meandering collection of memories inspired by Golsoncott, the Somerset country home occupied by her family for the greater part of the last century. By walking around the rooms of the house (in her mind) and looking at fondly remembered objects and furniture, she recalls the events, customs and people that together paint a slowly shifting picture of English country life in the 20th century. It is at once personal and social--a diary of the house and its occupants, and a memoir of the historical landscape.

While seemingly remote tragedies such as the Russian Revolution, the Holocaust and the Blitz all leave their mark, closer to home the house bears witness to important changes in the domestic and social nature of the surrounding countryside and its residents. Lively's memoirs are eclectic and fascinating, whether exploring changing fashions in dress, leisure pursuits, household management and gardening, or looking at the wider implications of changes in attitudes towards social class, women's role and marriage. While photograph albums chart the pictorial history of the family, a weathered picnic rug acts as a prompt for a wider discussion on the early hiking habits of the Romantic poets in that part of the Somerset countryside, the rise in popularity of rambling generally and the advent of the Great Western Railway and with it the opening up of the West Country as a hot tourist destination.

Throughout this rich and varied book, written in her inimitable, considered style, what Penelope Lively seeks to show is that, while many of the customs, fashions and attitudes of 20th-century middle-England have changed forever, many remain, buried just beneath a thin coating of modernism... and some changes are so seismic that they are almost overlooked in the rush to honour our past

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - nocto - LibraryThing

Catching up with a big backlog of read books, hence very short writeups. Not as good, or nearly as enthralling, as Oleander, Jacaranda, the memoir about Lively's childhood in Egypt, but still an ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - oldblack - LibraryThing

It's hard to categorize this book. Penelope Lively herself describes it as fiction, but it's not really. Not in the traditional sense. It's imagined social history, based on observations and facts ... Read full review

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About the author (2002)

Penelope Lively grew up in Egypt but settled in England after the war and took a degree in history at St Anne's College, Oxford. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a member of PEN and the Society of Authors. She was married to the late Professor Jack Lively, has a daughter, a son and four grandchildren, and lives in Oxfordshire and London.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 novels include Passing On, shortlisted for the 1989 Sunday Express Book of the Year Award, City of the Mind, Cleopatra's Sisterand Heat Wave. Many of her books, including Going Back, which first appeared as a children's book, and Oleander, Jacaranda, an autobiographical memoir of her childhood days in Egypt, are published in Penguin.Penelope Lively has also written radio and television scripts and has acted as presenter for a BBC Radio 4 programme on children's literature. She is a popular writer for children and has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award.

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