Consequences is a 2007 novel by Penelope Lively, who is one of my favorite authors. I wish there was some way to convey how truly wonderful this book is. It's a multi-generationl novel, but not in that epic, expansive way I expect from stories of that sort. No this is an intimate, personal family story. I hardly ever cry over books, and yet this one brought me to tears several different times. I found this book inspiring and touching and thought-provoking and immensely enjoyable. I liked getting to know the people (note: they weren't book characters to me but people) and celebrated the happy moments and seriously mourned our losses. I'm sad right now that I've finished it.
from the dust jacket:
quotes from the book:London, 1935: A chance meeting on a park bench on the eve of World War II sets in motion a love affair that reverberates through three generations. Matt and Lorna are deeply, defiantly, in love; they marry, and Lorna is pregnant when Matt is called for duty. But the war means Matt's death in action; it cuts short his artist's career and changes the course of Lorna's life. The war means that Lorna will marry again, and that Molly, their daughter, will grow up in a blasted landscape of bomb-sites and boarded windows, of households reconfigured by loss. But a chance look at a forgotten newspaper on the London tube leads Molly into her first job -and into the life of James Portland, a wealthy man she cannot love; and the postwar period gives way to a new era. Thirty years later, Ruth, Molly's own daughter, leaves her marriage for a journey that takes her back to 1941, to a new resolution of her own history and that of her family."...and thus it was that on an exquisite June morning Lorna sat weeping on a bench in St. James's Park,with the willows cascading into the lake, and a cohort of bright-feathered ducks eddying about at her feet. She became aware that she was not alone on this seat, looked sideways, stopped crying, and the rest of her life began."
Told in Lively's incomparable prose, Consequences is a powerful story of growth, death, and renewal, and a study of the previous century -its major and minor events, the shaping of consciousness and lives, and a reaffirmation of the force of connection between generations.
"I want a sudden quick glimpse into the future."
"It would be appalling to know the future. You couldn't live, knowing the future."
Youth was gone, then, which was occasionally dismaying but a truth that could be confronted, and faced down. More provacative was the erratic process whereby you went in one direction rather than another, did this, not that, lived here, not there, found yourself with this person and not someone else quite unknown, quite inconceivable. How did this come about? Oh, you made choices, but in a way that was sometimes almost subliminal, at others so confused that, in recollection, the area of choice is obscured entirely: what was it that was not chosen? And, sometimes, choice is not an option.
When Ruth became a mother she had the universal, unexceptional, hackneyed revelation -she perceived her own mother differently. She also stared backward and saw that almost mythical figure, her grandmother. This experience of her own had been theirs, but it had been otherwise, because springing from different circumstances.
The NYT concludes a positive review with this: "“Consequences,” despite its shadows, is also a joyous ever-widening dance. At its center shimmers the idea of resiliency, of the continuity of humankind as embodied in one family, shattered and reconstituted, fragile, stubborn, enduring." Book Page calls Lively "a heartbreakingly human and elegant writer." The Spectator opens a positive review by saying, "The most difficult task for a novelist is to engage the reader in an account of happiness. In Consequences, Penelope Lively manages to pull this off." Kirkus Reviews says, "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."
This counts towards my TBR book challenge.