Three generations of independent women in a single family are fortunate enough to meet the loves of their lives.
Applying her gift for seamless and addictive prose to matters of the heart, the Booker Prize–winning British writer’s 17th novel (Making It Up, 2005, etc.) is a well-crafted, soft-centered object lesson in the random yet unique business of meeting Mr. Right. Well-bred Lorna Bradley bumps into gifted wood-engraver Matt Faraday in London’s St. James’s Park in 1935 and marries him against her snobby parents’ wishes. A few brief years of idyllic happiness—including the birth of daughter Molly—ensue, in a picturesque but unmodernized cottage in Somerset before World War II intervenes, eventually claiming the life of Matt in Crete. Heartbroken, Lorna turns to printer and family friend Lucas, later marries him but dies giving birth to their son. Molly grows up self-reliant and refuses to marry her wealthy publisher lover, even after becoming pregnant by him. She doesn’t meet her own romantic destiny—poet Sam—until many years later, at a literary festival. Her daughter Ruth, a journalist, makes a conventional marriage to Peter but falls out of love with him as the years go by and eventually ends up with academic and writer Brian, back in the idyllic country cottage (now modernized) where her grandfather’s mural of the dance of life still graces the bedroom wall. Moving at a cracking pace, Lively never strays too far from her themes of love and literature, words and pictures, lighting up the narrative with flashes of historical detail.
Intelligent escapism: Although grounded by social history, this novel has its head in the fairy-tale clouds, where good things always await.