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The Photograph: A Novel | [Penelope Lively]

The Photograph: A Novel

Booker Prize¿winning novelist Penelope Lively's latest masterpiece opens with a snapshot: Kath, before her death, at an unknown gathering, holding hands with a man who is not her husband. The photograph is in an envelope marked "DON'T OPEN - DESTROY." But Kath's husband does not heed the warning, embarking on a journey of discovery that reveals a tight web of secrets within marriages, between sisters, and at the heart of an affair.
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Publisher's Summary

Booker Prize¿winning novelist Penelope Lively's latest masterpiece opens with a snapshot: Kath, before her death, at an unknown gathering, holding hands with a man who is not her husband. The photograph is in an envelope marked "DON'T OPEN - DESTROY." But Kath's husband does not heed the warning, embarking on a journey of discovery that reveals a tight web of secrets within marriages, between sisters, and at the heart of an affair. Kath, with her mesmerizing looks and casual ways, moves like a ghost through the memories of everyone who knew her, and a portrait emerges of a woman whose life cannot be understood without plumbing the emotional depths of the people she touched.

Propelled by the author's signature mastery of narrative and psychology, The Photograph is Lively at her very best, the dazzling climax to all she has written before.

©2003 Penelope Lively; (P)2003 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

"An ingenious premise for a novel and Penelope Lively...spins it out with expert skill." (The Washington Post)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.3 (173 )
5 star
 (27)
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Overall
3.7 (25 )
5 star
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Story
3.5 (23 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Rebecca Plainfield, VT, United States 09-15-06
    Rebecca Plainfield, VT, United States 09-15-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    78
    ratings
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    98
    51
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    Overall
    "good but sad"

    Beautifully written, this book explores how, whilst we have only one life, everyone will have different versions of what we are like, and who we are. Our inner worlds and our public worlds can be miles apart, as can our presentation of ourselves to different audiences. If you want a gentle listen, this is a good book to download, however this is a very sad book, so if youre in need of a bit of uplifting this isnt perhaps the best choice.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Highland Park, IL, USA 10-22-05
    Paul Highland Park, IL, USA 10-22-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    128
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    73
    40
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    3
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    Overall
    "Subtle and entertaining"

    Lively's story, and the characters in it, revolve around a deceased woman who remains something of a mystery as the characters reveal more and more of themselves as the story moves forward. The discovery of a rather unfortunate photo starts a chain reaction in the lives of the deceased's family and friends. Each chapter is from the perspective of a different character, which is reminiscent of Billiards at Half Past Nine by Heinrich Boll, and the same events are described by different characters in a manner reminiscent of Rashomon. Note too that Lively's characters have professional callings that evoke their roles in the story. For example, the widower who discovers the photo is a landscape archaeologist, and in this story he's got to dig through a surface life he took for granted to discover what happened years before. Masterful, highly recommended.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anastasia Burke California 06-17-08
    Anastasia Burke California 06-17-08

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    663
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    145
    63
    FOLLOWERS
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    156
    2
    Overall
    "A lovely book about assumptions"

    A widower finds an envelope long after his wife has passed away--what he discovers inside destroys all his assumptions about his marraige and the happiness he thought he had shared with his wife.

    This begins an intricate tale in which a group of characters--all who either were related to or knew the deceased--must come to grips with the assumptions they made about her, and how those assumptions might ultimately be implicated in her early death. It is a book about self-asorbtion, longing, and the quest for the greatest meaning in life--that of love.

    This is a beautifully written book with characters that are deeply felt, clearly defined, and very disticnt, and quite real.

    I also loved how Lively took the theme of assumptions and applied it to beauty: the main character (who is seen only in flashbacks) is related to by nearly everyone based on her extraordinary beauty. Most who meet her assume that, because she is beautiful, she lives a beautiful life. It is an assumption that produces tragic results.

    I loved the slow pace, a pace of discovery.

    Well worth the time of a reader who loves to spend time with carefully crafted characters and paragrpahs that shimmer with thoughtful prose.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Speer OHIO 04-18-08
    J. Speer OHIO 04-18-08

    discerning shopper

    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    68
    15
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    0
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    Overall
    "Not so great"

    I wonder what puts this book on lists... whether bestseller or book clubs. It was only ok. There are so many fabulous reads, pass this one up. It never got me wrapped up in the story, the characters did not move me; the plot held little interest for me. I enjoy the obscure but this was nearly mundane.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Wallkill, NY, United States 04-26-07
    Susan Wallkill, NY, United States 04-26-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    232
    6
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    0
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    Overall
    "Quiet and Thoughtful"

    This book is typical of Penelope Lively's writing: thoughtful and interested in people's interior lives. I struggled to begin with with the female narrator's bogus English accent. However, once I got over that and just concentrated on the writing I enjoyed it. The male narrator is fine. But I will go back to reading Lively in the future as I think one can savor her wonderful skills more that way.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzanne H NYC 02-27-07
    Suzanne H NYC 02-27-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
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    192
    21
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    Overall
    "A"

    I really want to give this 3.5 but since that is not possible I made it a 4. I felt a bit unsatisfied at the end of this one because I did not feel like I had enough answers. That may be the point, the book asking the question, "Do we ever really know anyone?". I'm sure many times we don't even when we think we do. Sometimes I don't mind when the book leaves more questions than it answered, but this one left me wanting a bit more.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sherry Bothell, WA, United States 08-22-08
    Sherry Bothell, WA, United States 08-22-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    42
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    52
    18
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    "Not her best"

    You can always expect elegant writing from Penelope Lively but I can't recommend this novel for any other reason. Both characters and their situation are so cliched as to make them unsympathetic and boring. This book did not keep my interest.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lyn LADY LAKE, FL, United States 05-09-08
    Lyn LADY LAKE, FL, United States 05-09-08 Member Since 2007

    Tell us about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    75
    ratings
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    97
    47
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    Overall
    "not worth it"

    I tried to enjoy this read but could never get invested in any of the many characters or the wobbly story line

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah New York, NY, USA 10-31-06
    Deborah New York, NY, USA 10-31-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    45
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    31
    30
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    Overall
    "WONDERFUL"

    This was a wonderful story. I really enjoyed it. The narration was good. Don't skip this one.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret everett, WA, USA 02-25-07
    Margaret everett, WA, USA 02-25-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    2
    1
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    0
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    Overall
    "absolute drivel"

    I just finished this audiobook, and during the second half I couldn't help but ask myself why I was still listening. Can this get better? i asked myself? No, it didnt. Boring story, boring unlikeable characters.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
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