25 October 2009

Book Review: The Photograph

The Photograph
Penelope Lively

This review might be a little on the short side. As much as I like Lively, I am a little ambivalent about The Photograph. Not to say I didn’t like it. I just expected more. The plot is pretty clever and can be summed up fairly easily. Glyn finds a picture of his deceased wife Kath that suggests that she had an affair with her sister Elaine’s husband Nick. Glyn confronts Elaine, Elaine confronts Nick, etc. Not wanting to give away any of the twists and turns I think I will leave it at that.

The Photograph is an enjoyable, easy read. The characters are believable and have interesting jobs that provide interesting context (landscape designer, publisher, historian), but the twists and turns of the relationships themselves—while understandably fascinating to others—was not all that interesting to me. And if I went into great detail about the book (and included some spoilers) I could detail the ways in which I don't think some of the events and characters portrayed ring true. And there are even a few things that happen that explain why this book carry's the "Today's Book Club" seal. (For those that don't know or remember this was the Today Show's attempt to cash in on the popularity of Oprah's book club. And we aren't talking about Oprah's better choices either...plus it was on morning TV with Katie Couric. In other words this is not a badge of honor.)

If you are only going to give Penelope Lively’s fiction one shot, read Consequences instead. Far more interesting and compelling. If you plan to read everything she as written because she is a wonderful writer (which she is), or you are looking for something to read on a plane, The Photograph is still worth the time.


  1. Ah, yes. I will still read this one but it isn't next on the list. Have you read Family Album yet?

  2. I think I have Family Album in my TBR pile. Nothing I read in Photograph would keep me from working my way through the rest of Lively's back catalog.


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