Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Spiderweb," by Penelope Lively

How wise English author Penelope Lively is! And how assured her writing is! I have written here before about this wonderful author and about several of her novels. I have just re-read her novel “Spiderweb” (Harper Flamingo, 1998), which I originally read before I started this blog. It is the story of a just-retired social anthropologist, Stella Brentwood, who has for the first time bought a house in England and settled down. During her working life, she was constantly moving, doing fieldwork in various farflung locales. Her particular area of study was family and community lineages and relationships, those that form the “spiderwebs” of the title. Yet she herself, despite romances and friendships, never wanted to marry or confine herself to one place. Now, in her new cottage, she tries to observe the local people as she has observed her research subjects elsewhere over the years. She tries to get involved, and does so to an extent, but feels the ways in which English life has changed and in which community’s ties are less tight and compelling than in the past. She has both some friendly and some rather disturbing neighbors; her portrait of one family, with its abusive mother and two resentful teenaged sons, is quietly chilling. "Spiderweb" serves as a meditation on gender, love, connections, aging and the life choices we all make. Most of all, it focuses on the eternal balancing act between the life of the individual and the life of a member of a larger society; we all have both roles, and we are all constantly negotiating and readjusting those two roles. Finally, I want to say once again that Lively is one of the very best writers writing today.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter