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The Photograph by Penelope Lively

The Photograph (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Penelope Lively

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1,026298,260 (3.33)107
Title:The Photograph
Authors:Penelope Lively
Info:Penguin Books (2004), Paperback, 240 pages
Collections:Borrowed, Read but unowned
Tags:England, death, friendship, infidelity, marriage, sisters, fiction

Work details

The Photograph by Penelope Lively (2003)

  1. 00
    The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst (ReneeGKC)
    ReneeGKC: Also about a search for the truth of a relationship. Twin books

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Glyn, a historian, is rummaging through a cupboard looking for some old papers when he comes across a photograph of his wife Kath, taken about 20 years earlier. In the photo she is holding hands with another man. Glyn is shaken to the core, but unable to confront Kath because she recently passed away. Seeking the truth, he reaches out to Kath’s sister Elaine, who is also in the photo. Glyn’s discovery ultimately sends shock waves through the family and surfaces long-buried issues. The happy-go-lucky and stunningly attractive Kath’s presence is still very much present; grief is still fresh. As details of Kath’s life are revealed, everyone who loved her is forced to re-examine often seemingly trivial events now infused with new meaning.

Penelope Lively is a master at telling a story by showing how the tiniest of details can have a profound effect (for another example of this talent, I recommend How it All Began). No one’s life is as simple as it first appears, least of all Kath’s. I was fascinated by the way Lively gradually revealed connections and entanglements, and the possibility for different outcomes, had other choices been made at various points in time. ( )
3 vote lauralkeet | Aug 4, 2015 |
This is my third book by Lively this month and in this book the author once again explores the impact of history and memory the lives of her subjects. Foremost, this is a book about memory. The author tells the story of an adulterous affair through the many different eyes and lives of the people involved. It starts with the cuckolded husband finding an envelope with a photograph in it marked "destroy." The photograph shows the lovers innocuously holding hands while at a group picnic. This discovery, long after the wife has died, leads the husband to start asking questions because his honor has been offended. In the course of the rest of the novel his single-minded pursuit of answers leads to alterations in many lives. It also questions the truth of memory and the memory of truth. Exploring memory and personal history is a theme with this author and this title continues that exploration. It is a book that will provide fodder for many a book discussion group far into the future but not necessarily provide reading enjoyment for the reader as did some of the author's previous work. ( )
  benitastrnad | Jan 20, 2015 |
This was a very fascinating reading. The whole story is about memories from different persons about a woman called Kath who died a few years ago. The widower founds a compromising photo of his deceased wife and his BIL. He is obsessed to find out if there were other men in her life. Therefore he starts asking questions and confronts his counterparts to look into their memories and past. During his investigatings all memories are turned upside down and in the end everybody has to learn to live with a new Kath.

I was impressed with how Lively so impressively describes each character. I had always the feeling I was sitting in each person's head and was able to follow their mind. I saw Kath from different points of view sometimes fun-loving or melancholic but mostly as a person who is very lonely.

It's a book I can strongly recommend. ( )
2 vote Ameise1 | Jan 1, 2015 |
In this quiet book, Lively explores how we remember people, how our memories are influenced by our assumptions about others and the stories that we create for them, and what happens when doubts about the past arise. Although one of the main characters is dead, throughout the book we see her change and transform in a rather remarkable way. ( )
  eapalmer | Jul 20, 2014 |
Glyn is a widower who unexpectedly finds a photograph of his deceased wife, Kath, with a group of people. This leads to alterations in relationships, recriminations and adjustments in values. Each chapter is told from the perspective of those thought to be closest to Kath, which gives us a gradually evolving view. Penelope Lively is at her best in revealing the essence of her characters in a thoughtful, subtle way. As with all of her books, this one leads to thought-provoking questions. ( )
  pdebolt | Feb 8, 2013 |
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Kath. Kath steps from the landing cupboard, where she should not be.
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Book description
The Photograph is an unflinching and unforgettable story of the many ways the past intrudes upon the present and the present alters the past. When Glyn, a landscape historian, stumbles upon a photograph of his deceased wife, Kath, holding hands with another man, his understanding of the past is "savagely underminede." Reading the past, uncovering and deciphering its strata, is his stock in trade, but now it is his own personal landscape, and the history of his marriage, that he must reinterpret. He veers from the emotional vertigo to an obsessiver need to know what kind of woman his wife really was. A taut and suspenseful psychological narrative, written in Lively's unmistakable nuance and insight, The Photograph s above all a profoundly moving meditation on the mysteries of time, and the instability of the past.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142004421, Paperback)

Man 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:58 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Searching through a little-used cupboard at home, TV history man Glyn Peters chances upon a photograph he has never seen. Taken in high summer many years before, it shows his wife, Kath, holding hands with another man. As Glyn begins to search for answers, he and those around him find the certainties of the past and present slipping away, and the picture of the beautiful woman they all thought they knew well distorts, changes, grows mistier.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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