Mrsgaskell's Reviews > Moon Tiger
by Penelope Lively
by Penelope Lively
** spoiler alert ** Moon Tiger is a brand of mosquito coil that, like life, burns briefly before turning to ash. Claudia Hampton is 76, lying in a hospital bed, dying of cancer and reflecting on her past. A former newspaper correspondent and writer of popular history, she is writing a book: “A history of the world, yes. And in the process, my own. The Life and Times of Claudia H. The bit of the twentieth century to which I’ve been shackled, willy-nilly, like it or not. Let me contemplate myself within my context: everything and nothing. The history of the world as selected by Claudia; fact and fiction, myth and evidence, images and documents.” She takes a “kaleidoscopic view”, selecting scenes randomly from her childhood after the First World War, her time as a correspondent in Egypt during World War II, to the present day where, after an eventful life, she finds herself simply an elderly woman being treated patronizingly by the nurses: “Was she someone?”, one of them asks. She acknowledges that the past is subjective, shaped by the words that recount it and gives us the same events from other points of view. A complex and not always sympathetic character, Claudia is beautiful, intelligent, independent, and unconventional. She and her brother have an unnaturally close relationship. She lacks in maternal feeling, refusing to be called “Mummy” and leaving her daughter to be raised by her grandmothers. She never marries the father although they maintain an on-again, off-again relationship for years. Claudia is at her most sympathetic during a short-lived romance in Egypt during the war. The book is somewhat slow paced but well-written and interesting.
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