The beloved and best-selling author takes an intimate look back at a life of reading and writing.
"The memory that we live with...is the moth-eaten version of our own past that each of us carries around, depends on. It is our ID; this is how we know who we are and where we have been."
Memory and history have been Penelope Lively’s terrain in fiction over a career that has spanned five decades. But she has only rarely given listeners a glimpse into her influences and formative years.
Dancing Fish and Ammonites traces the arc of Lively’s life, stretching from her early childhood in Cairo to boarding school in England to the sweeping social changes of Britain’s 20th century. She reflects on her early love of archeology, the fragments of the ancients that have accompanied her journey - including a sherd of Egyptian ceramic depicting dancing fish and ammonites found years ago on a Dorset beach. She also writes insightfully about aging and what life looks like from where she now stands.
©2013 Penelope Lively (P)2014 Audible Inc.
"Narrator Kelly Birch's crisp British tones are an excellent match for Penelope Lively's direct writing style. This is not an emotional memoir but a more aloof reminiscence on certain themes. Lively wryly muses on the aches and pains of old age, is grateful for the joys of reading, and charms with her account of her most precious possessions, including the dancing fish and ammonites of the title. Birch effectively delivers all that. Lively comments that she can still remember her French even though she hasn't needed it in years, and Birch successfully manages that chatty prose." (AudioFile)
Okay, lame title for the review. However, I chose it because although I knew nothing of Lively until this book, it sounded interesting. And it was. Not compelling. Not an exciting page turner for certain. Still, there is an incredible amount of insight into the life of a very wise and genteel lady. She sounds to me as if she would be a wonderful person to sit and have a long conversation with. Indeed, I guess that was the attraction of this book for me. It was like having a long but not overly so, conversation with an intelligent and charming member of a distinctive generation. Hard for me to explain, but it made me want to read her fiction to learn if it could match the quiet beauty of her nonfiction. Also, the narrator is one I am unfamiliar with but her voice was soothing without being soporific. Thank you Audible for introducing me to this author. And Kelly Birch, I look forward to more of your narration.
Some of the musing fail to resonate, but it's fascinating to be able to see the world from her point of view. I especially enjoyed her recollections of the disruption to her life from WWII. We think of war in grand terms, but this brings it to a very personal level.
I can't compare the two as I haven't read the print version, but the language of the book is quite exceptional. The trouble is I can't "enjoy" the book because I truly dislike the narrator's voice, her flow, the intonation of her voice, the cadence. I really don't like listening to her and it takes away from the author's beautiful message.
I'm still listening to it, but the soft humanity of life, living, and death. What it means to grow old -- how one doesn't envy youth or crave to live longer -- but how to live life elegantly as an older person and enjoy the peace and wisdom one gains throughout life. Finally, in age, one is able to know ones self and exercise the honesty in which a life well lived can softly take it's rest.
I can't explain it, but her voice is not relaxing or welcoming. This book should be read in the voice of someone who is older, wiser, deeper. It is a book written by an older woman and therefore an older person should have narrated. I truly dislike listening to Ms. Birch read this book, but all is made up for in Penelope Lively's excellent and beautiful writing.
No, I listen to it in the car and so I knew I would listen to it at different times and in chunks of one hour or so.
I recommend getting a new narrator. I hate saying this about Kelly Birch, but she's just not the right person for this book. Her voice is abrasive and takes away from really enjoying the story.
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