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Ammonites and Leaping Fish A Life in Time by Penelope Lively

Ammonites and Leaping Fish A Life in Time

Biography / Autobiography   eBook Favourites   

Sue Baker's view...

An exquisitely described journey into old age, Penelope Lively has captured the essence of what it is to be old, looking at both the benefits and the downside of ageing. A meditation on a long life well lived set against the question of ageing in today’s society, a delight to read.

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Ammonites and Leaping Fish A Life in Time by Penelope Lively

In this charming but powerful memoir, Penelope Lively reports from beyond the horizon of old age. She describes what old age feels like for those who have arrived there and considers the implications of this new demographic. She looks at the context of a life and times, the history and archaeology that is actually being made as we live out our lives in real time, in her case World War II; post war penny-pinching Britain; the Suez crisis; the Cold War and up to the present day. She examines the tricks and truths of memory. She looks back over a lifetime of reading and writing. And finally she looks at her identifying cargo of possessions - two ammonites, a cat, a pair of American ducks and a leaping fish sherd, amongst others. This is an elegant, moving and deeply enjoyable memoir by one of our most loved writers.


'Fascinating, lucid ... Authority, yes; and wit, thoughtfulness, a tender attention to the natural world, an incisive but deeply humane imagination: Ammonites and Leaping Fish is full of all of these'

Helen Dunmore, The Times

'Like old age itself this book is not for sissies. Luckily for us Lively is one of our most gifted writers ... This is Lively at her best'

Sunday Express

'A fascinating portrait not only of the author but of the times through which she has lived ... sharp, unsentimental and ruefully funny'

Daily Telegraph

'Lively's memoir about age and the pleasures and pains of seniority is informative, instructive, unexpected and beautifully observed'


'An elegant and thoughtful dissection of a subject few writers dare dwell on'

Times Magazine

'Rich in observations and recollections. It should be read slowly because there is much to invite reflection'

Herald Scotland

'Other brilliant women writers (Joyce Carol Oates, Joan Didion ...) have written whole volumes on widowhood, but Penelope Lively's description of that condition is all the more affecting by being sparse ... Will delight all those who love Lively's novels ... It's all enthralling: autobiography in miniature'

Daily Mail

'A superb study of memory and of her own voyage into the ninth decade of her life ... Lively is a compelling, vitally interested witness to time past'

Helen Dunmore Observer Books of the Year

'Ammonites & Leaping Fish is powerfully consoling. Lively is certainly sagacious, her words careful and freighted. But there is girlishness here, too. Things still catch her eye, her attention. New books. Old stories. Another day for the taking'

Rachel Cooke Observer

About the Author

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 Sister, Heat Wave and her latest, Consequences. 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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Book Info

Publication date

7th August 2014


Penelope Lively

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Penguin Books Ltd


240 pages


Biography / Autobiography
eBook Favourites

Biography: literary
Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers



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