THE ROAD TO LICHFIELD by Penelope Lively


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This first novel by Lively, author of the 1987 Booker Prize-winning Moon Tiger, has remained unknown to American readers since it was written over ten years ago-a pity, since it's rich and subtly contrived. As with subsequent Lively offerings, though, its concerns are narrow and not out of the ordinary; indeed, here the subject is an aberrant year in a middle-aged Englishwoman's life, a year when Anne Linton, wife of barrister Don, in the village of Caxing, looks off the straight, signposted road of her existence and finds some temporary solace. What motivates her is her 80-year-old father's sudden decline in health. Thus, trips north to a Lichfield nursing home, where he struggles for life, become her weekly routine, during which she meets a young friend of her father's, David Fielding. They fall in love, as Anne sorts through her father's desk, organizes his lonely house, plants flowers in his overgrown garden, watches David fish for trout. Counterpointed with their interludes are Anne's deliberations back in Cuxing over the fate of an old cottage, which preservationist friends urge her to help protect from a developer. But what Anne ultimately decides is that parts of the past aren't worth saving (as with the cottage and the facts she uncovers about her father's infidelity to his late wife), and that other parts must simply be left out in any chronological history--which is what will become of her liaison with David once she returns to being the faithful suburban wife. An auspicious debut, in retrospect: it works gently, but is deeply felt and thoughtful.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Grove Weidenfeld