Thursday, May 03, 2018

City of the Mind

City of the Mind is a 1991 novel by Penelope Lively . Lively is one of those authors whose name is enough to get me to read a book. This book begins in May. You can read an excerpt here.

from the dust jacket:
City of the Mind is at once a poignant love story and a meditation on the city of London, which has seen destruction, loss, and quest over several centuries . The protagonist is an architect, intimately involved with the new face of the city while haunted by earlier times in its history.

Matthew Halland, divorced and lonely at the beginning of the novel, has a rich and moving relationship with his young daughter Jane, whom he sees as often as his visiting privileges permit. She offers a fresh perspective on love, loss, and even the city of London as she and her father visit its different neighborhoods.

As Matthew's prize new building in the Docklands area of London goes up, a ray of hope enters his life in the form of Sarah Bridges, an editor at a magazine for connoisseurs and collectors of furniture and objets d'art. This love story, so movingly portrayed, becomes the emotional core of the novel.

Matthew is also entangled with an array of fascinating characters through his work, from a corrupt real estate developer named Rutter to a child-survivor of the Holocaust who fashions the engraving that will adorn Matthews Frobisher House in the Docklands.

Matthew's relationships with Sarah and Jane anchor him firmly in the present, allowing his mind to rove freely over his own past as well as that of the city of London. While he builds a new life on the ashes of a failed marriage, he moves through a city where past, present, and even future interweave.

Some of Penelope Lively's earlier novels -including both the Booker Prize-winning Moon Tiger and Passing On- have explored the ways in which the past affects the present. Now, in her most ambitious novel, Lively has created a wonderfully rich and audacious confrontation with the mystery of London, with the buried lives that make us what we are, and with a contemporary cast of characters as varied as any she has written about before.
Publishers Weekly concludes,
The narrative becomes a meditation on time: historical time, time as perceived by children, as altered by crisis, or love, or memory. In chronicling Halland's passage from desolation to re-engagement, Lively affirms that our existences have meaning, even as we are succeeded by others in the dance of life.
Kirkus Reviews describes it as "a serious, self-involved meditation on transience and immutability, with a map of London -present and past- laid on top."


  1. I've never heard of this author, but it sounds like a good read. Thanks for the review.

    1. She's one of my favorites! And she's still writing at 85 years old.

  2. I do know that author's name, but I don't know why it is so familiar. Maybe I read one of her books long ago? Hmm. You have me thinking. Thanks for the review. Hugs-Erika

    1. She's been writing novels since 1977 and has written a lot and won awards for both adult and children's books, so it's likely you've heard of her even if you haven't read anything by her. I'm glad to have discovered her :)

  3. I thought I recognised the name of the British writer 😁. So glad that you like her books and thanks for the review. Wishing you a Happy Friday! J 😊 x

    1. She is such a good writer! :)

      I'm looking forward to watching the KY Derby this afternoon. Fun day :)