Search This Blog

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Lively, Penelope. Consequences. I really liked this novel, a bit surprising as I was not much taken with Lively's The Photograph several years ago. Consequences is about the distaff side of a family and covers over 70 years, from the 1930's to the present.

The story begins with Lorna in the years before WWII. Born into an upper middle-class family, Lorna finds herself out of sync with many of the goals and values of her parents, and when she finds Matt Farraday, an aspiring artist and engraver, the two marry and set out to live their lives in an old farmhouse with few conveniences.

The story eventually moves to their daughter Molly, who has a streak of her mother's independence, and when she finds herself pregnant, refuses to marry the father of her child, deciding to raise her daughter Ruth alone.

And finally, Ruth and her life and situations unfold. Eventually, Ruth feels a need to find a connection with her grandparents, especially with Matt, whose engravings are still valued and admired, and the sense of coming full circle is achieved.

Lorna, Molly, and Ruth are all independent women in their own particular ways, and while other characters are important (lovable or shallow or interesting or not), they are never the center, although they have impact.

Covering such a large expanse of time in a rather short novel means that much is eliminated in order to move from mother to daughter to granddaughter. There is also a sense of removal from the characters, as if you are viewing them from a distance, and they are not always visible, but in and out of shadow so that what you have are only glimpses. Sometimes I felt a little excluded. Sometimes I wanted a more complete rendition of their lives. Yet those feelings were because I liked these women and wanted to know more. Their difficulties are the difficulties of humankind; the lives the author presents are somewhat constrained -- minor disappointments and joys are swept away, but the key events are there: love and grief and those feelings of things not being quite right, as if one is waiting for something - to make a move, to be discovered, to find a direction, to take a risk - that we all have at one time or another.

I would have preferred a longer book, one that filled in more details and further enlarged on not only the women, but also the secondary characters like Lucas, Simon, and Sam; I am greedy when I like characters.

Nevertheless, despite wanting more, it was a book that I found strangely satisfying; partly because even as I was reading, there were certain events in Ruth's life that were coinciding with things that were on my mind. Thoughts on love, relationships, the end of relationships, the joy of a mother in her child, loss, memories, and wanting to know more about those ancestors whose faces look out at you from pictures....

I notice that Lively has written two autobiographies whose titles sound intriguing: A House Unlocked and Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived. I'm adding them to my TBR list because I'm planning on continuing my reading of biographies, memoirs, autobiographies.

Fiction. 2007. General fiction. 258 pages.


  1. I like the sound of this book and this is not an author I have read before. I think I will put this one on my list. Thanks for a great review!

  2. Sounds like a good book. Really enjoyed your review.
    I hope your Father is doing a bit better. I know it will be a long hard road for you all. Healing thoughts and prayers flying your way...

  3. Kay -- She also wrote Moon Tiger, which won the Booker Prize. I haven't read it, but it is on my list. Consequences is her 14th novel, but the only other one that I've read was The Photograph -- which I didn't really care for. Consequences has changed my mind. :)

    Paula -- I really liked Consequences and am eager to read her autobiographies. Thanks for the good thoughts and prayers!

  4. I've only read Moon Tiger, but it was really, really good. :D I hope you get to review A House Unlocked at some point, because while it looks good, I've seen some negative reviews at amazon, and I just can't decide.

  5. I loved this book; it was one of my books of the year. I hadn't read Lively for a long time, but I now have a vast number of her books in my tbr pile. I'm so glad you enjoyed it as well.

  6. I read Moon Tiger recently and really liked it -- I should check out more of her books!

  7. I really enjoyed your review Jenclair! I have this one on my TBR list definitely.

  8. That cover looks a little like Suite Francaise.

    Thanks for the review!

  9. Eva - Glad to hear that you liked Moon Tiger. I'm going to look for it next library visit-- as well as A House Unlocked.

    Ann - I knew I'd read a couple of positive reviews on Consequences when I saw it on the library shelf, but couldn't remember where!

    Dorothy -- Another positive vote for Moon Tiger. That's reassuring; hope my library has a copy.

    Iliana - I think you'll like it!

    Bybee -- I haven't read Suite Francaise, but I do like the cover a lot!