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A house unlocked (2001)

by Penelope Lively

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1965101,283 (3.8)15
"'I thought that I would see if the private life of a house could be made to bear witness to the public traumas of a century'. Here Penelope Lively recalls Golsoncott, the country house in Somerset her grandparents bought in 1923. Through the sometimes strange, unfamiliar articles there - the gong stand, the picnic rug, the potted meat jars and bon bon dishes - she charts the social changes and transforming moments of the twentieth century. Changing attitudes to social class, the tension between town and country, how one learns to see the world: all are examined in this eloquent, fascinating memoir."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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Showing 5 of 5
Catching up with a big backlog of read books, hence very short writeups. Not as good, or nearly as enthralling, as Oleander, Jacaranda, the memoir about Lively's childhood in Egypt, but still an interesting read. This bit of non fiction is basically a chat about all kinds of changes in the twentieth century presented as a ramble around her grandmother's Somerset home. It goes into a bit of a (gentlewomanly) rant in places.
  nocto | Dec 8, 2010 |
An intriguing way to write both history and autobiography. ( )
  LaurieRKing | Mar 10, 2010 |
It's hard to categorize this book. Penelope Lively herself describes it as fiction, but it's not really. Not in the traditional sense. It's imagined social history, based on observations and facts. Faction? I broke the "Rule of 50" on this one. I read only 30 pages before giving up, and I'm not yet (and probably never will be) 70 - the age declared by Nancy Pearl's rule as one at which you only need to read 30 pages to make a decision. Of course the principle behind Pearl's rule is that the older you get, the less you can afford to waste time reading books you really don't like. I claim an exemption because I started reading late in life, and I expect to die young.

OK, on to my next book in my Festival of Lively Reading: "According to Mark" (by Penelope Lively, of course!) ( )
  oldblack | Aug 29, 2009 |
This is such an interesting book! Lively is one of my favourite British authors, and this book is woven around the family home in Somerset that her grandparents bought in 1923. She uses it to show how apparently unchanging buildings and landscapes can reveal both momentous events in history and changes in technology from trains to needlecraft.
See more at http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/a-house-unlocked-by-penelope-lively... ( )
  anzlitlovers | May 15, 2009 |
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IN MEMORY J. F. L., B. M. R., R. B. R.
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It has always seemed to me that one effective way of writing fiction is to take the immediate and particular and to give it a universal resonance - to so manipulate and expand personal experience that it becomes relevant to others.
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"'I thought that I would see if the private life of a house could be made to bear witness to the public traumas of a century'. Here Penelope Lively recalls Golsoncott, the country house in Somerset her grandparents bought in 1923. Through the sometimes strange, unfamiliar articles there - the gong stand, the picnic rug, the potted meat jars and bon bon dishes - she charts the social changes and transforming moments of the twentieth century. Changing attitudes to social class, the tension between town and country, how one learns to see the world: all are examined in this eloquent, fascinating memoir."--BOOK JACKET.

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