Moon TigerAuthor: Penelope Lively
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Claudia Hampton, a beautiful, famous writer, lies dying in hospital. But, as the nurses tend to her with quiet condescension, she is plotting her greatest work: 'a history of the world and in the process, my own'. Gradually she re-creates the rich mosaic of her life and times, conjuring up those she has known. There is Gordon, her adored brother; Jasper, the charming, untrustworthy lover and father of Lisa, her cool, conventional daughter; and Tom, her one great love, both found and lost in wartime Egypt.
Just look at the cover of this book. Doesn't it make you want to go to Egypt and sink yourself into this picture and all it conjures up? I don't imagine for a minute that Egypt is like this now, but what a wonderful vision to have when reminiscing on your life. 75 year old Claudia Hampton is dying, lying in a hospital bed, drifting in and out of consciousness as the important people in her life, both living and deceased pass through her memory and by her bedside.
And what a life Claudia has lived. Born between the wars, she decides that the prescribed life for women of marriage and children is not to be for her. Highly intelligent, beautiful, adventurous, fiercely independent and determined to prove herself she becomes a war correspondent in Cairo. The war, like it did for many many people, became the defining event in her life, the center point from which all her memories radiate out. After the war she continues to defy the conventions of the time by not marrying, having a child and becoming a successful historian. Who says women can't have it all?
So now she is dying. And just like her memories coming and going so the story is told in much the same way. Moving seamlessly from the present to various events and occasions in the past, narrated effortlessly by Claudia and those who make up her life, this is a novel all about a life well lived. It is also about the secrets and deep emotions that we all hold in ourselves and that no one else will ever know about. This is so beautifully and poignantly written with such deep insight that you can see why it won a Booker Prize way back in 1987. I read this book when it was published all those years ago without even really knowing what the Booker Prize was. It obviously made an impression at the time as it is a book that I have always kept. Now having read it again some 20 odd years later, and me being older, it is still a book worth keeping.
And what is a Moon Tiger? It is simply a mosquito coil which as it slowly burn drops ash, in much the same way that Claudia's memories are drip fed through the course of this novel. $
AwardsAward: Winner, Man Booker Prize Year: 1987
Classifications:Prize Winning, Prize Winning Fiction
Category:Fiction General Fiction