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Cleopatra's Sister

3.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  284 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Penelope Lively's confident narrative introduces us to Howard, fossil mad from boyhood, whose life as a scientist has so far lacked one essential ingredient for happiness, the ability to fall in love. Enter Lucy, a journalist, 'the kind governments dread', who is equally sceptical about any philosophy of life involving faith or luck. Their worlds collide en route to Nairob ...more
Published May 26th 1994 by Penguin (first published January 1st 1993)
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S K Gillespie
Dec 23, 2009 S K Gillespie rated it really liked it
I’m not sure where I heard about Penelope Lively. It could have been Pickle Me This, and I know I got the recommendation for Maureen Corrigan’s Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading (which I have nearly finished and will review soon) there, so it’s likely. Anyway, I ordered Cleopatra’s Sister: Novel, A and Consequences from the library. I finished Cleopatra’s Sister in a day and a half. It would have been sooner, but apparently you have to feed children and mop floors and stuff like that instead of just r ...more
Bryan Murphy
Jul 01, 2015 Bryan Murphy rated it really liked it
A beautifully told tale, which I re-read recently. It would have been totally captivating if the author hadn't kept harping on about chance and coincidence: after all, Bulgakov had already done Chaos Theory in "the Master and Margarita".
Jan 01, 2008 Blaire rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
On one level this is a story of two people who are thrown together when the plane they are on has engine trouble and lands in a North African country in the midst of a military coup. They and their fellow passengers are taken hostage and during their ordeal they fall in love. The thing that makes the book interesting is that the story is set in the context of an extended rumination about the effect of fate and accident, predestination and free will, caprice and historical forces, on the trajecto ...more
Jan 05, 2015 Richa rated it liked it
Like many of the reviewers here I felt that the book was in two parts. The first part was a slow build-up of Howard, Lucy and Callimbia's characters. It suddenly leads into this fast paced story where each moment is a new struggle against the tyranny of the mad dictator of Callimbia where Lucy and Howard's plane makes an emergency landing.

During the first half I really had to push myself to not go running for more juicy bits. But, let me tell you one thing the first half is rich and deep. I love
Nov 12, 2014 Jon rated it really liked it
Not to be confused with the many titles "Cleopatra's Daughter." This one is by a Booker Prize winner, and while it's not up there with her best, it's very interesting, mostly for narrative reasons. It's in two parts. The first is told by a very, very omniscient narrator, one who knows not only the thoughts, pasts, and futures of all her characters, but who knows true history that historians have missed. She knows, for example, that Cleopatra's sister Berenice was not in fact murdered by their fa ...more
Rosemarie Pratt
Aug 16, 2015 Rosemarie Pratt rated it really liked it
Since I've read most of Penelope's Lively's books and have loved them all, I was prepared to love this one as well. I almost abandoned it, finding Part 1 slow and laborious - especially the bits about Callimbia. I'm so glad that I persevered since Part 2 more than made up for it. From that point forward, I couldn't put the book down, stayed up much too late reading, and almost burnt our dinner since cooking while reading isn't such a great idea. I gave this book 4 stars only because Part 1, thou ...more
Feb 18, 2013 Lucy rated it really liked it
Hmmm a book of 2 halves. The first part of the book which follows the background of Howard, Lucy and the fictitious country of Callimbia was just ok to me. It didn't particularly grab me though if I'm honest. Especially because one of my pet peeves in novels is a fictitious country. I genuinely don't believe this novel needed such a lengthy back story before arriving at the action.

The second part of the book, however, completely redeems the first half and had me enthralled. There is fantastic t
Andrew Hecht
Oct 08, 2008 Andrew Hecht rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I really enjoyed this book, although I was laughing at it initially. The book is divided into two parts. The first has three types of chapters that alternate: those that follow Howard's life, those that follow Lucy's life, and intercalary chapters about the history of Callimbia. In the second part, Howard (a palaeontologist) and Lucy (a travel writer) meet (and fall in love) when they are taken hostage on their way to Nairobi.

If you haven't heard of Callimbia, don't worry. Penelope Lively made i
Sneh Pradhan
Mar 27, 2014 Sneh Pradhan rated it it was amazing
A rare confident narrative , incisive , with profound insight laced in every sentence and drawn with the most intellectually indulgent humor , it's one of the only few books whence you are hooked from the very first sentence till the last . And one of the fewer books , again which I just didn't want an end to want the story to go on and on if the story has become a part of your life .............. Sigh !!!!!!!!!!
Dec 15, 2014 Kathleen rated it liked it
This was an intriguing novel, and a wonderful dip into paleontology, via fossils, alternative ancient history, via Cleopatra's sister, and alternative recent history, via the imagination mixing with the opportunism of mad dictator types. I liked how the chapters alternated between past--a "brief history" of this or that--and present, and also between Howard and Lucy, our main characters. I kept rooting for them.
Feb 28, 2014 Diana rated it liked it
Reading anything by Penelope Lively is a pleasure and this book was captivating, but not my favorite. What was excellent about the book was Lively's frightening scenario of something that could happen to anybody...I don't want to spoil anything for a new reader! It is suspenseful and haunting and seems all-too-real...
Oct 27, 2014 Trace rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Catherine Bateson
Mar 21, 2015 Catherine Bateson rated it really liked it
I like Lively's use of the intrusive omniscient narrator in this book. Or in the first half of the book. I liked the way the book was in two halves and the second half certainly kept me reading.
Jul 11, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-east
Fate, choice, history, random luck--the story of a paleontologist and a journalist thrown together in a hostage situation.

First half of the book is a high altitude view of the main characters' lives up until they board that flight to Nairobi. Dry humor abounds. There's also the summary of the fictitious north African country where the flight ends up making an emergency landing.

Second half of the book is about each day of their captivity. Tension is so high, I almost couldn't read it, and yet the
It's on my list for 2002, but I don't remember it the story at all. I do remember reading it, after reading Spiderweb, and thinking that book was much more interesting.
Jun 13, 2012 Phyllis rated it really liked it
An engaging novel with three parallel stories that come together. Howard, a paleontolgist, is particularly fascinaged by the fauna of the Burgess Shale, and what did and did not survive and evolbe. Lucy, a journalist, grows up essentially taking care of her mother and providing the adult perspective. Callimbria, a fictional city between Egypt and Libya. All three strands come together in the second half of the book during a hostage crisis. I'm particularly intrigued by how Lively illustrates big ...more
Feb 02, 2015 Ruie rated it really liked it
I love Penelope Lively, but I almost put this book down. I am so glad I didn't. It is a slow start, but it all comes together in a marvelous way Lively is a masterful developer of characters as well creating intriguing plots!
Ilaria Goffredo
Una scrittura e una concezione della storia che mi azzardo a definire visionarie, a volte fataliste. Non mi è piaciuto.
Diana Skelton
Jul 28, 2015 Diana Skelton rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
"What occupied him most at this moment was the vision of the entire direction of a life latant at any single moment, implicit in the scheme of things, as though a silent refrain from the future were woven into the narrative, if only you knew how to pick up the frequency."
"She rather hoped that passion would come her way eventually, since she had every intention of living a thoroughly robust and ample life, but she was in no hurry. Clearly that particular eclipse of reason was a hazardous process
Ms. Fletcher
Aug 15, 2012 Ms. Fletcher rated it liked it
"Cleopatra's Sister" was a bit difficult for me to get into as Penelope Lively is rather verbose in her descriptions. I love good character development as much as the next person, but the character detail was almost too much. I don't need to know every single event of a character's life in order to appreciate who they are and who they might come to be. With that said, I found the weaving of past and present to be intriguing, and I enjoyed the manner in which Lively brought the different componen ...more
Jun 28, 2015 Don rated it liked it
A very imaginative read.
Apr 06, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it
Took a while to get going while the two main characters story and the country's history were all established separately. But then about 35% of the way through - bam! - the narrative took off like a rocket and I couldn't put it down. Don't give up on this - very engaging descriptions of group dynamics and individual reactions to a very stressful situation (without giving away the plot!).
Oct 19, 2009 Megan rated it liked it
Well, here's another case where I've preferred other books by the author (A City of the Mind is fabulous and I highly recommend it) It has a conceit that might under some circumstances be interesting--it divides between a "here and now" and a "there and then"--but the here and now is much more interesting than the there and then, which takes up a good third of the book.
Oct 19, 2014 Stefanie rated it really liked it
What exquisite language used to heart pumping purpose without pretense or being forced. Can't wait to read more of her works. Luckily she has written a lot.
Dec 15, 2007 Tim rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes good literature
The first half is absolutely splendid in its analysis of couples and relationships. Christina and I both saw a lot of ourselves here. The second half, once the story got started, was less satisfying. It reminded me a bit of Ann Patchett's Bel Canto (which it preceded by many years), but less compelling. (Bel Canto, btw, is an absolutely splendid book.)
Sep 07, 2011 Alex rated it really liked it
This is, first off, fabulously written. It was a pleasure to read. The storyline, secondary, also held my interest well, though part 2 was more gripping than part 1. The romance between Howard and Lucy was expertly portrayed, the developing relationship more believable than any other romance I've read. Ms Lively is a wonderful writer.
Jul 27, 2014 Artemis33 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the first half more than the second. The separate chapters leading into the culmination of the three stories into one resonated with me stronger than the second story told in the latter half. That's not to say the writing was not as strong but when the two main characters came together, I didn't feel anything.
Jul 04, 2013 Katie rated it really liked it
Shelves: love
I really enjoyed this book. The first half was a little dull, but the switching between the narratives and the history of Callimbia was very interesting. The second half had all the action-and of course the relationship between Howard and Lucy.
I freakin' loved these characters. Best thing about the book, hands down.
Lauren Albert
Jan 11, 2010 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I really liked this. You see the development of the two main characters leading up to their eventful meeting. In between there are rather funny chapters telling the history of the fictional country where they are destined to meet. It wasn't a masterwork but it was very pleasurable reading.
Feb 03, 2013 Barbara rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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 about Penelope Lively...

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