Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Moon Tiger” as Want to Read:
Moon Tiger
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Moon Tiger

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  14,693 ratings  ·  1,191 reviews
The elderly Claudia Hampton, a best-selling author of popular history; lies alone in a London hospital bed. Memories of her life still glow in her fading consciousness, but she imagines writing a history of the world. Instead, Moon Tiger is her own history, the life of a strong, independent woman, with its often contentious relations with family and friends. At its center ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 18th 1997 by Grove Press (first published 1987)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Moon Tiger, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Mike It's probably a few others overly influenced by bourgeois identity politics. This review of a biography of Edward Said in "The New Yorker" may help ea…moreIt's probably a few others overly influenced by bourgeois identity politics. This review of a biography of Edward Said in "The New Yorker" may help ease your unease:
Lynn The book is non-linear. Read to the end and it all becomes clear.
Life of Pi by Yann MartelThe God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyThe Remains of the Day by Kazuo IshiguroThe Blind Assassin by Margaret AtwoodMidnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Booker Prize Winners
56 books — 1,905 voters
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. RowlingAnd Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieMy Sister's Keeper by Jodi PicoultHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. RowlingThe Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Best Twists
5,087 books — 8,733 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,693 ratings  ·  1,191 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Moon Tiger
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: sail the sea of the century
Recommended to s.penkevich by: mo leannan
[U]nless I am a part of everything I am nothing.

We are like waves in a vast ocean moving forward to break upon the shore and vanish, yet the ocean remains. Each wave has it’s own narrative, each person a starring role in the story of their own lives, yet all of us are a collective ocean of minor and major roles coming and going from the larger narrative of human history. Penelope Lively’s Booker Prize winning novel Moon Tiger examines ‘the intimate debris of people’s lives’ through a sweeping ce
“The voice of history, of course, is composite. Many voices; all the voices that have managed to get themselves heard. Some louder than others, naturally. My story is tangled with the stories of others – Mother, Gordon, Jasper, Lisa, and one other person above all; their voices must be heard also, thus shall I abide by the conventions of history. I shall respect the laws of evidence. Of truth, whatever that may be. But truth is tied to words, to print, to the testimony of the page. Moments showe ...more
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The narrator announces this is to be a history of the world. What she means, we soon learn, is that it will be a history of the world as experienced by her. We have all been exposed at certain times of our life to moments of history which mysteriously remain an essential part of who we are. Perhaps a childhood visit to Hampton Court, a passage in a school history book about Cleopatra, a documentary about an archaeologist hell-bent on finding the remains of Troy – moments that are like portals al ...more
May 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Robin by: Julie
A very personal take on history

If I ever met Ms. Penelope Lively, it'd go one of two ways: I'd embarrass myself, falling over her with syrupy praise, thanking her with babbling, awkward effusiveness for creating such a masterpiece OR I'd tell her with the bitterness of a withered crone that reading this book dampened every hope I had of writing something even close to its equal in impact, beauty or originality. She has raised the literary bar, HIGH.

It's a double edged sword when you're a wri
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Utterly compelling historical novel that plays with time and perspective in fascinating ways. Claudia Hampton sets out to tell the history of the world. And she does exactly that. Only it's her own private world she describes, with all its secrets. Lively does a masterful job of shifting perspectives on various scenes, telling it first from one character's perspective, then another's, and on shifting and jumbling Claudia's sense of time, because as an old woman looking back on her life, she sees ...more
Violet wells
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked this when it wasn't posturing. But I felt it postured a lot. And largely fell short of its admirable ambitions. I generally felt Lively is probably a more conservative novelist at heart and this was her attempt at pushing back her boundaries, the literary equivalent of an habitually conventional woman suddenly dyeing her hair jet black and wearing stilettos to the supermarket. It's like the work of a writer who has just read and been shaken out of her comfort zone by Virginia Woolf.

Claudia Hampton speaks to me of wars fought in distant lands, of the ever-persistent forward march of humanity in the quest for collective betterment, of stories unknowingly buried forever in the catacombs of time and never unearthed, of the people we carry in our hearts wherever we go, of the history of the world intertwined with our own. Claudia tries to make sense of the cacophony of voices inside her head and outside, of conflicting opinions colliding violently creating sparks that burn down ...more
I am verklempt. I am besotted. I've come undone. ...more
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Just wow. The nerdiness quotient in how I picked this book up is off the charts (it was quoted in an article I was reading for my thesis) but I can honestly say I have rarely made so wise a geeky decision. To read the summary on the back in a bookstore, I doubt I would have decided to read it. An old woman dying alone in a hospital reflects on her life. Call that a picker-upper. But the way she constructs her life: viewing it as a historian. Weaving the history of the world into her own exi ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
The more I think about and talk about this book, the more impressed I am by it. It won the Man Booker Prize in 1987 but had bad reviews. It was selected as the book from the 1980s to go up for the Golden Man Booker Prize this year, and despite the fact that it didn't ultimately win, I feel like that process put it back on the radar for a lot of us. First I was standing in line waiting for another book to be signed when another reader-podcaster brought it up, and then last night I was having some ...more
This is one of these situations where I just loved this book so much that I don't think my review will be able to contain all my enthusiasm for it.
It is only now, I realise how close I came to never reading this. It is not really a book that advertises exactly what it is, (I had vague notions of romance and grumpy old people). It feels somehow eclipsed by other books in the annuls of Booker history. I do feel indignant on behalf of Lively that this book, written a full 5 years before The Englis
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reading Moon Tiger is a catalyst for drifting into one’s own memories. A woman lays dying in a hospital bed. Back and forth her thoughts carry her. Back she goes to the places she knew well, for many were the hours spent there. She drifts and loses time as she re enters scenes of passion, love, loss, disappointment and failure. A complex and flawed human she can now see herself for who she is. Visitors come and add messages to her memories. As she really hears and feels the messages from others ...more
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
As soon as I read the synopsis of Moon Tiger I knew I was going to enjoy it. An elderly woman in her hospital bed, dying of cancer, recaps the story of her life, and a very interesting life at that. I liked Claudia very much. She had her faults but she was also captivating, intelligent and larger than life.

The author writes beautifully and her descriptions of Egypt made me feel as if I was there. The piece towards the end when Claudia reads Tom's description of the war in the desert is an incre
I've just finished this novel and I'm a mess. Moon Tiger was almost too much to take.
The way Lively used language blew me away. I can't compare it to anything else I'd read before. Some of the scenes from Egypt reminded me of The English Patient, but this novel was published some years before Ondaatje's Booker prize winner.

And, of course, there's the indomitable Claudia Hampton, intelligent, beautiful, argumentative, bullheaded, opinionated, independent, complicated, and infuriating. Oh, how I
B the BookAddict
Sep 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Shane Malcolm Billings

This winner of 1987 Man Booker Prize probably should have won many more distinctions. The main character, Claudia, is anything but dull; she is irascible, unapologetic; a woman very much ahead of her time.

We are walking lexicons. In a single sentence of idle chatter we preserve Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse; we carry a museum inside our heads, each day we commemorate peoples of whom we have never heard. … I never cease to wonder at it. … That words are more durable than anything, that they blow wi
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1001-read, favorites
If this novel had not been chosen as the group read for December 2018 by the ManBookering group here on GR, I would have missed this splendid book! It is strange, but I had never heard of Penelope Lively nor of this Booker Prize winner of 1987 and I would surely have forever missed this masterpiece if not for its choice of the group read.

I simply adored this book. I cannot express how connected I felt to Claudia, that stubborn woman with a mighty tough attitude. Her story is told in a non-chron
Paul Secor
One of my rereads for 2020.

This time through, I was struck by the fact that Penelope Lively somehow managed to make Claudia Hampton a likable character (at least I felt that she was) although she considers almost every other person in her life to be beneath her - her brother and her lover being two exceptions. She basically abandons her daughter to the care of her two grandmothers, partly because she deems her uninteresting. She looks down on the father of her child because he's made a lot of m
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
“… crying not in grief but in wonder that nothing is ever lost, that everything can be retrieved, that a lifetime is not linear but instant. That, inside the head, everything happens at once”

I came to this book as a result of its inclusion as part of the 2019 Mookse Madness tournament – but it was also an opportunity to add a Booker prize winner to the list I have read (I think this is my 22nd) and one which was generally seen as a surprise pick to represent the 1980s for the Golden Man Book
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Candi’s wonderful review of this amazing book reminded me that it’s another review I lost in my old hacked accounts, but more importantly, it reminded me of just what an incredible novel this is. Simply brilliant. :-)
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An impressive account of war-correspondent and popular-historian Claudia, from her childhood to her death, the story she tells herself in a hospital bed at the end of a long life, its style mimicking the way a person might remember, without it being so-called stream-of-consciousness. Claudia’s thought processes include eras she didn’t live through—those of Pilgrims and Aztecs, for example—connecting those times to herself and to the time she did live through.

The narrative also gets handed off i
Elyse  Walters
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this soooooo many years ago. Loved it! Own it!
Remember it well.
A treat to see new reviews and new readers discovering this thin book.

Powerful - page turner gorgeous storytelling!
"Moon Tiger", for which the author won the Booker prize, is a book that I could admire, but not like. The main protagonist, Claudia Hampton, an accomplished historian, lies dying in a London hospital bed and looks back upon her life. The resulting series of first-person flashbacks, interspersed with third-person accounts of the same episodes, coalesce into a tightly constructed kaleidoscopic view of Claudia's life which is impressive for the skill with which it is achieved, but ultimately left m ...more
Sep 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Long before The English Patient there was this very taut novel about WWII in north Africa. There isn't a wasted word in the entire novel and while you may not always sympathize with the main character (Claudia), you will enjoy her razor-sharp wit. Her daughter is portrayed as a dull product of a love affair but Lively doesn't allow that to go on either, allowing the daughter to have her say. I've read this countless times because Lively is a master or rather mistress of economy with words and ye ...more
Sep 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this a B- in 1997. I don’t remember reading it. 🙁 I wonder what my threshold is: At what age do I remember vaguely reading a book vs. definitely reading a book vs. not reading a book when I have indeed read the book? Not reading a book when I have read it in statistics lingo would mean I committed a Type II error. I imagine I have committed some of them—I just hope the threshold is something like 15 years as opposed to one year. 😐 Reporting that I have read a book when in reality I did no ...more
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Late life reminiscences have been done before, though they are rarely as eloquent as this one.

Claudia lies abed, reexamining the years and the people with whom she spent them. She recalls the complex relationship with her brother Gordon. As a child, she had once asked God to eliminate him - painlessly but irreversibly, but as adults, they were more like a married couple, so closely tuned it was almost incestuous. She also fondly and sadly remembers her brief affair with Tom, the only man she ev
Jonathan Pool
Moon Tiger has been the focus of much, renewed, attention since its surprise selection as a Booker 50 decade winner (for 1987- selected by Lemn Sissay).
Penelope Lively has always had her supporters and Moon Tiger is a work of some style and substance that has not dated.
I heard Penelope Lively speak at the Booker 50 and it was a true pleasure to witness her strength, her independence, her lucidity at age eighty five.
It is tempting to ask whether the Claudia Hampton of Moon Tiger is semi autobiogr
Betsy Robinson
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

. . . everything can be retrieved, . . . a lifetime is not linear but instant. . . . inside the head, everything happens at once. (68)
That quote describes both the plot and structure of this stunning book.

Claudia Hampton is 76 and dying, and as she dies, she tells the story of her world—all its failures, successes, loves (forbidden and lost), peoples, times, and points of view. She jumps from first person to third to different first persons, and it is not the least b
I've been musing on feminism and the prevalence of white supremacism in its most visible structure which no. Nope. Uh-uh. So, what does that leave me in terms of the where-do-we-go-from-here? Strange and terrifying and unthinkable places, judging from conversations both online and off, because if social justice is less realization and more Inception and a much deeper plain is called for than what is sustained by the majority of entertainment both canonical and otherwise, what are we allowed to a ...more
I like what this book is saying----people’s lives are what history is all about. Our lives are inextricably shaped by history. Our lives are the makings of history. Our lives are history.

Death is total absence, but when the person that has died has shaped another person, the dead person’s essence is preserved in the person that remains. Through the living the dead are preserved. Through the living those that are dead continue to exist….at least for a while. This idea is expressed in the book, an
Dec 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Nicolette McKenzie’s hoarse voice was a perfect match for Claudia, the narrator of the ‘Moon tiger’. She is tough, and self centered, now elderly, and planning to write her very own history of the world. Strangely in the world of Claudia nobody seems to be of any importance, not her husband, not her child and certainly not any of the people that she mentions. Except for her brother perhaps, and also…. except for one more person, in Egypt, during the war….but that was another Claudia, in another ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books
  • Hotel du Lac
  • Offshore
  • The Old Devils
  • Heat and Dust
  • Sacred Hunger (Sacred Hunger #1)
  • In a Free State
  • Life and Times of Michael K
  • Holiday
  • Saville
  • Last Orders
  • Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
  • Staying On
  • Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth, #1)
  • G.
  • Possession
  • The Conservationist
  • The Sea, The Sea
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Penelope Lively is the author of many prize-winning novels and short-story collections for both adults and children. She has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize: once in 1977 for her first novel, The Road to Lichfield, and again in 1984 for According to Mark. She later won the 1987 Booker Prize for her highly acclaimed novel Moon Tiger.

Her other books include Going Back; Judgement Day; Nex

News & Interviews

When it comes to whiling away the dog days of summer, nothing is better than a good book. Or two. Or three. Let’s say ten! We’re getting...
23 likes · 2 comments
“Language tethers us to the world; without it we spin like atoms.” 1244 likes
“We open our mouths and out flow words whose ancestries we do not even know. We are walking lexicons. In a single sentence of idle chatter we preserve Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse; we carry a museum inside our heads, each day we commemorate peoples of whom we have never heard. More than that, we speak volumes – our language is the language of everything we have read. Shakespeare and the Authorised Version surface in supermarkets, on buses, chatter on radio and television. I find this miraculous. I never cease to wonder at it. That words are more durable than anything, that they blow with the wind, hibernate and reawaken, shelter parasitic on the most unlikely hosts, survive and survive and survive.” 40 likes
More quotes…