Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir

"I am interested in the way that memory works, in what we do with it, and what it does with us," the 80-year-old Booker Prize-winning author Penelope Lively writes in her memoir, Dancing Fish and Ammonites. "And when I look around my cluttered house.... I can see myself oddly identified and defined by what is in it: my life charted out on the bookshelves, my concerns illuminated by a range of objects. These, then, are the prompts for this book: age, memory, time, and this curious physical evidence I find all around me as to what I have been up to--how reading has fed into writing, how ways of thinking have been nailed."

Lively came into the world under one set of assumptions and, as she notes, will be leaving under quite another. Society changed drastically during her lifetime, with changing class and social distinctions in England, the upheavals of feminism and the seismic shift in attitudes toward sexuality. She offers insightful and entertaining thoughts on all three topics.

Lively never loses sight of what is going on in the wider world. She looks out around her and then back at herself in it, examining everything through the scrim of a prodigious intelligence and a memory that is "the mind's triumph over time." Dancing Fish and Ammonites is chock full of anecdote, opinion, insight, lore and the sheer delight of a life lived fully. --Valerie Ryan

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