Monday, January 20, 2014
Heat Wave, by Penelope Lively
Posted by JaneGS
My first book for this year's TBR Pile Challenge was Heat Wave, by Penelope Lively. This is my first Lively novel and I found it absolutely compelling, well-written, and thought-provoking.
It is very tight, very taut book. Taking place between May and August, entirely in the English countryside, with but a handful of characters, the focus is intense and the tension palpable. As the summer progresses, and the heat wave consumes the wheat as well as the people, the plot folds in upon itself until everything explodes with the thunderstorm that ends the story and the heat wave.
Pauline is a fifty-five year old divorced editor, living in one of two cottages she owns. The other cottage is inhabited by her daughter, Teresa, and her husband, Maurice, and their son, Luke. The story is told in the present tense and entirely from Pauline's perspective. Her ex-husband Harry, Teresa's father, was charming but pathologically unfaithful to her. She is in despair as she suspects that Maurice is following the same path that Harry did, and she frets about what to do. To tell her daughter, to scold Maurice, to mind her own business, to grieve her own lost marriage? She thinks about maternal instinct--the need to protect one's young even when they aren't young anymore. She thinks about betrayal and love and fate and patterns that repeat.
Heat Wave is a wonderful literary novel--I got to exercise my English major brain and note how Lively used nature to parallel her plot and increase the tautness of the narrative. If Heat Wave is representative of Lively's writing, then a fan is born. I think I'll a get copy of her Moon Tiger next.