Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively: Review

Moon TigerMoon Tiger by Penelope Lively

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This acute, ambitious novel was unexpected. It had been recommended to me only a couple of times, but by people whose opinions I took seriously. I thought Moon Tiger would be polite, lyrical, easily-put-asideable. Instead, it’s a tight, vastly ambitious, tender and troubling (in a good way) book.

Moon Tiger is the fascinatingly fragmented life story of Claudia Hampton, plus the history of the world. It’s one of the best books I’d read about war (and I’ve just finished Michael Herr’s Dispatches). It is also a love story, a story about the disorientations of growing old, and a very English family saga.

The point of view shifts between characters. The tense changes. But mostly this is a way of cutting out the boring bits. Repeatedly, an event is mentioned as having happened or as soon to happen, and three lines later you’re in the middle of it. There’s absolutely no throat clearing. This gives the whole novel an urgency and excitement.

I remember my parents reading it, when it won The Booker Prize. They’d have said ‘it’s very well written’, and it is. But it’s much more.

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