|About the Book|
On holiday with her laptop-obsessed husband, Myra undergoes a quiet transformation. The Australian landscape (even in paintings) seems to have an almost miraculous effect on her, and when they go on a bus tour of the Blue Mountains, she finds herselfMoreOn holiday with her laptop-obsessed husband, Myra undergoes a quiet transformation. The Australian landscape (even in paintings) seems to have an almost miraculous effect on her, and when they go on a bus tour of the Blue Mountains, she finds herself suddenly broaching the taboo subject--Bridget Cashel, her husbands mistress. Penelope Lively limns the tense moment: Myra listened to her own words with astonishment and satisfaction. George too listened, apparently. His eyes leapt to life. Myra saw surprise, dismay and a process of rapid thought. By the end of the ride, alas, reality returns, and she sees they will not again speak so openly. What had passed between them today would remain for ever beyond the Blue Mountains, potent and powerful. She felt a touch sorry for Bridget Cashel. And possibly for George. A trainee at a local manor is increasingly drawn to the Medusa Fountain. Though he knows its against the rules, one day he joins the nymphs, a transgression that modulates unavailingly into a shocking conclusion--the daring subtlety of Livelys art turning a fable into a tragedy. Another character, stuck in Slovenia following a conference, suddenly realizes there are realities which for most of us are beyond imagination. Not beyond this authors, however. The Five Thousand and One Nights is a collection of quiet wit. Its author tends to view her characters sympathetically, especially as they cope with change and the passage of time. The title story is more assertive in mode, and contains a very modern Sultan and Scheherazade. At 42, she is still narrating, though the Sultan has recently found her tales more addling than enjoyable: Youre using some rather confusing words these days, you know. What does sensibility mean? And I get muddled about the settings. Wheres Devonshire? It takes the narrative of a certain Mrs. Dalloway to make him fight back, getting in on the story game with some action- and violence-packed prose. This is fairy-tale revisionism at its best and reads as if Lively delighted in its creation. It is the most irresistible, and exhilarating, story of this fine collection.