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Making It Up

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  383 ratings  ·  76 reviews
New from the award-winning author of "Moon Tiger" comes a masterly crafted exploration of the myriad answers to the question, "What if . . ."
Hardcover, Large Print, 360 pages
Published January 1st 2006 by Wheeler Publishing (first published July 28th 2005)
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I think to some extent most writers use their own lives, or those of people they know, as inspiration for their work, but Penelope Lively is open about this in this book, and presents a collection of stories as fiction but has side notes to them in her own voice, telling us what foundations the story had in reality and how she embellished it. She tells us of chances she never took, roads not travelled, and imagined different outcomes for things she may or may not have experienced. As I am doing...more
Bette BookAddict
Oct 06, 2013 Bette BookAddict rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bette BookAddict by: Goodreads
Shelves: at-library, fiction

In this novel (novella) Lively tells stories of parts of her life that weren't, well, parts of her life at all. She is 'making it up' hence the title. She states emphatically “This book is fiction. If anything, it is an anti-memoir.” In this book, she takes certain times in her life then crafts a fiction around characters which are neither her nor resemble her. It is sectioned into chapters: Mozambique Channel, The Albert Hall, The Temple of Mithras, Imjin River, Transatlantic, Comet, Number Twe...more
Sian Jones
I feel as if someone has been hiding Penelope Lively from me. I know that can't be true -- but, based on this collection of short stories, I feel as if she's up there with Alice Munro and Andrea Barrett, and as such, someone really should have been forcing her work into my hands before now, for my own good. The short stories in this collection are literary without being lifeless, precise and deeply human, and the framing device -- small essays about the decision point in her own life she's playi...more
Really cool concept - not a memoir. What she does instead is look back on various points in her life when she could have taken a different path and writes a fictional sketch. For example, at one point during her Oxford years, she meets an American professor who encourages her to apply to grad school in the States. She didn't; she stayed in Oxford and met her husband, but she imagines a woman who has been away from England for so long that it is no longer home, visiting with her American husband....more
Not nearly Lively's best work, but her average work is still better than most writers can produce. I would have rated this 3.5 stars if that option were available. This is an interesting approach, a creative sort of partial autobiography. The reader does end up knowing her better, in a way which reminds me of "Olive Kitteredge." The glimpses here and there do create at least parts of a persona.

The eight stories in the book are not equally successful. I liked "Transatlantic," "Comet" and "Number...more
Mark Speed
The first, and only, book I've ever bought by this author. I bought it because it was recommended, and she was doing a talk at the Royal Society of Literature, which I'd just joined.

I was pretty disappointed when matching it against the expectations built up from the reviews. I don't think it would have got a look in from the slush pile had it not been from a famous novelist.

A reasonably good idea, but the stories weren't particularly compelling or interesting. I guess if you're the author, or a...more
This is such a unique book! I've never read anything remotely like it before. Each chapter is a philosophical and imaginative exercise in how our choices affect the course of our lives and the lives of the people we interact with. The book is a series of vignettes taken from the life of the author, but an exploration of what would have occurred if she had made different choices than she did in reality, and she rarely takes the starring role in this "anti-memoir".
I love the way Penelope writes. I write stories (some day to be the next great American novel!)all the time and they all start with some situation I am in or am observing and it used to be difficult to get far enough outside them to disguise the characters from people who might recognize themselves. AFter reading "Making it up" I see how much fun it is to RUN away with a subject.
Maybe I liked this so much because I like Penelope Lively so much. But the idea alone is a great one, not to mention the execution. She imagines how her life might have been, if chance had put her in harms way as a child, or if she had taken a different path as a graduate student. Being a fan made these turns of fancy more fun for me to read perhaps.
Penelope Lively is one of those wonderful names and one of those wonderful English authors who writes novels that are sometimes too too depressing and others that are quite, well, lively.

Making It Up (2005)is a series of stories about "what might have happened in my life if..." for instance, "if the boat on which I was escaping Cairo with my mother when the Germans were marching in during World War II had sunk?" or "if my husband had been killed and I'd never met him?" She briefly introduces ea...more
Penelope Lively is a gifted storyteller and this book of short stories is no exception. The unique thing about it is that she uses the book as a meditation on writing fiction which makes this a particularly good read. Each story starts with some "nonfiction" italicized text about her life and what might have been if .... The reader can then see how she used her own experience as a spring board for the fiction story. Following each story is more italicized text in which she reflects on fiction vs...more
Great idea, and well done. But the only story I liked deeply was the first one.
"Making It Up is Penelope Lively's answer to the oft-asked question,'How much of what you write comes from your own life?' What if she hadn't escaped from Egypt, her birthplace, at the outbreak of World War II? What would her life have been like if she'd married someone else? From a hillside in Italy to an archaeological dig, the author explores the stories that could have been hers, fashioning a sublime and dexterous dance between reality and imagination that confirms her reputation as a singul...more
Penelope Lively begins with an ingenious premise and takes it in unexpected directions. Making It Up draws inspiration from what must be one of the top five questions heard by writers: How much of this story is true? To what extent do writers simply cannibalize their own lives, transcribing actual experience, stealing not just the words from the mouths of friends and family members but the actual friends and family members? To what extent is fiction "true" to the experience of a writer's life?

"Making It Up" would be a great book choice for a long weekend at the cabin.

The short story format (8 in all) makes book easy to pick up and set down (and think about, and re-read, and then come back again...).

My favorites of the series:

(1) The Mozambique Channel (About falling in love on a ship that is fleeing a war: "She felt these days as though she were two people; there was this new self, who lived differently, for whom each morning were a rich, fresh realization, and there was the old Sh...more
Interesting twist on the autobiography: Penelope Lively takes pivotal moments from her past and weaves a story around 'The Other Choice', or one of the other choices at least. This results in an interesting collection of short stories, which are wedged between an introduction and a conclusion based on real life. Explaining the relevance of the story to the actual life lived.

Interesting concept. Interesting stories.
Jennifer Burns- Our Book Boyfriends
Penelope Lively has the gift of story telling in this marvelous volume of short stories. As she says "This book is fiction. If anything, it is an anti-memoir. My life serves at the prompt" where she writes alternate stories about her life. It is like a "What if..." What if I were to have moved to the United States... What if I were to die...

Ingenious, if you ask me. It makes me want to write all of the "What ifs" for my life.

There is a food scene in each story!

"We went for a picnic up in the Moq...more
AdultFiction Teton County Library
Teton County Library Call No: F Lively P
Cindy's Rating: 5 stars

If you enjoy reading Alice Munro's fiction you just might like Penelope Lively's short stories. While Munro's characters are often altered by chance encounters and random decisions sending them down strange and perilous new roads, Penelope Lively explores the paths not taken.
"Somehow, choice and contingency have landed you where you are, and the whole process seems so precarious that you look back at those climatic moments when thing...more
Bookmarks Magazine

One feels certain that had Lively not insisted on framing these tales with the stories of their real-life origin, the critical reaction would have tilted higher. As it is, she's delivered a hybrid collection__what she calls an "anti-memoir"__that confounds the issue. Most critics find the fiction perfectly engaging, as would befit a former winner of the Booker Prize (for Moon Tiger, 1987). But where curiosity or voyeuristic thirst might be slaked by the view into Lively's studio, the overall eff

Carolyn Agosta
This collection of short stories was well-written, and interesting to me as a writer because it allowed you to see a bit of why the author wrote what she wrote. She uses her own life as a jumping-off place and then changes the characters, setting, plot, with What If questions to herself. With each story is the author's notes on how she came to write it. I particularly liked "The Albert Hall" and "Comet". I wish there was an option of three and a half stars, because that's what I'd select. It's n...more
April 'hampton' rolando
I really liked the concept of this book and I enjoyed the first short story but after forcing myself through a couple more I gave up. They just didn't hold my interest.
Preferred the stories to her musings about why she wrote them. I think the preface sufficed and could have been a little longer, and the interstitials unnecessary. I preferred the second half of the book to the first, and the last three stories were lovely and exceptionally well written and explored, "Comet" and "Number Twelve Sheep Street" especially. I find I rather like Penelope Lively and wish were were two old Brits sitting down to tea together. She seems an extraordinary individual, with v...more
Not sure how I feel about this book?? Measure of good writing is I'm still thinking about it hours later. But I'm finding I am not as appreciative of the short story format as I once was. Now it seems disappointing and I'm wanting more. Once again that is probably the mark of an excellent short story when the reader doesn't want the story to end and wants to know what else happened. While I appreciate Lively's creativity in writing what ifs of her life I didn't find most of her maybe life scenar...more
Kirsty Darbyshire

This really fired my imagination for some reason; I'm not sure I know why. It's a collection of short stories, which aren't really my favourite thing. They are loosely coupled together as being offshoots from Penelope Lively's own life. It's the old alternate history game made personal: "What if my life had taken a different turn?". And I found it quite compelling. It's all fiction but weakly linked together with fact and I found the junctions and the similarities and differences between the alt

Susan Merrell
I stayed up half the night to finish this. Part memoir, but mostly a set of "what if?" short stories about the paths Lively's life might have taken had she made other choices at critical junctures. A brilliantly understated book, no huge flourishes but solidly constructed and elegant. She raises some quite interesting questions about a writer's obligation to the truth, about a writer's role in the world and in relationship to family and friends.
I love what Penelope Lively does with narration, personal history and unreliability. She takes it in a new direction in this book, writing short stories of the way her life could have been, if she had been different or other choices surrounded her. Most of the stories I really loved and felt, a few (the anthropology one in particular) were weaker.

The retelling of Penelope (from The Odyssey) was a beautiful bonus.
How often do you get to mark a book memoir and fiction, and mean it well? Such an interesting premise--exploring paths her life didn't take, and beautifully executed. Also quite interesting if you, like me, love reading fiction but can't quite imagine how one would go about writing it--here's one way. I've been meaning to read Lively for a while, and am excited to think of all the books of hers that are waiting!
What a delight of a book! The premise was fun; it was almost like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books - the author explored a few of the directions her life could have gone. The directions were not as straight forward as I expected, it was a collection of short stories, but all related in some way to the author's life.

The writing was engaging. I will definitely check out more books by this author.
Shonna Froebel
Very good.
What an interesting idea to create different lives for yourself.
Yet another example of a collection of short-stories being packaged as a novel. This is a thoroughly self-indulgent and mundane collection of stories where Lively imagines what may have happened if her life had take a different turn at crucial points. It's an interesting concept but, with the exception of the first story, the reimagined situations are not in the slightest compelling or original.
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Penelope Lively CBE (born March 17, 1933) is a prolific, popular and critically acclaimed author of fiction for both children and adults. She has been shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize, winning once for Moon Tiger in 1987.

Born in Cairo in 1933, she spent her early childhood in Egypt, before being sent to boarding school in England at the age of twelve. She read Modern History at St Anne...more
More about Penelope Lively...
Moon Tiger How It All Began The Photograph Family Album Consequences

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