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Judgment Day

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  316 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Penelope Lively is one of England's greatest living writers, whom The New York Times Book Review has called "blessed with the gift of being able to render matters of great import with a breath, a barely audible sigh, a touch. The result is wonderful writing." Judgment Day takes us into the life of Clare Paling, who has just moved with her family to Laddenham, a seemingly d ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 20th 2003 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 1980)
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3.74  · 
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 ·  316 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short novel featuring a number of interlocking characters in a small village called Laddenham. The ancient village Church stands as a character, one which is in need of repair and it is this repair which is, perhaps, an underlying metaphor. Each of the main characters and even some of the minor ones limp woundedly through their lives or, with a couple of them, they forge ahead rather like those people who run from their cars after crashes and get a litle way along on the adrenalin rush before co ...more
Oct 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
I love Penelope Lively's books, and I always find it so hard to describe why. They are generally quiet, without the bluster or bombast of so many novels, yet they are not cloying or claustrophobic. They are observational, but not overly full of description. Generally, I have to like a character in a book to like the book, but I don't feel that need with Lively's books. Certainly, there are characters I empathize with, and others that I dislike immensely, but I don't latch on to any one person.

Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a deceptively slight and short story of village life in England. But alongside village life we get an examination of human vulnerability in the face of death, tragedy, judgement. Sounds grandiose and pretentious? Well it isn't - because it is done with such a light touch. Different characters show different aspects of human 'coping' with reality. The vicar has to confront his lack of fervour and his inability to make an impression on those around him. The clever middle-class mum discover ...more
Lauren Albert
Mar 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
In this book, judgment day does not come after life but during. We judge each other; we judge ourselves. Lively's vision of faith in this book is a sad one--moments of fate show its futility and human beings' kindnesses or lack thereof, seem unrelated to their religious leanings.
The characters are well drawn and the story quietly compelling.
Paul Secor
Penelope Lively knows the characters she creates, and when I've finished reading one of her books, I know them too. To me, that's one sign of a fine writer.
Judgement Day is one of my favorite Lively's - perfectly written.
Nov 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wow. Good book. Love her writing style!
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Penelope Lively is quickly becoming one of my all time favorites. She is able to tell the reader so much with so few words, her characters are so identifiable from the little details she gives us. Some are instantly dislikable and then others seem to reveal themselves slowly throughout the course of the book. Just as I was wondering where this book was headed, it broke my heart.
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Greatly enjoyed this book, Lively's writing really skewers the characters and their backgrounds.
Elizabeth Bradley
Dec 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
I've decided to embrace the theology of Penelope Lively. As set forth by the agnostic heroine of this amazing little book, it is an eminently rational and humane belief, rooted in the heroine's staunch insistence on the truth and power not of a deity, but of words. And I can't argue with that.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Laddenham is full of church going believers, but not all profess faith. Lively creates her own blend of characters in this delightful story.
Steve Dewey
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was my first Penelope Lively novel. Her name on spines has followed me around bookshops for the best part of my reading life. But in my drive to read more women authors, I found a couple of Lively's second-hand, and thought I'd give them a go. She is a prolific author, and the first two purchases were pretty much pot-luck. Turns out that Moon Tiger, the first of the two I bought, was a Booker prize winner. However, I began my Lively journey with the slightly slimmer Judgement Day.

Andrew Cox
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another excellent book by Lively. She is excellent at writing about normal people & is a wonderful commentator on social issues. The politics of the small town and how people live their lives. The significance of the past and the sorrows people carry with them. The importance of religion, history, class and snobbery. There is a deceptive depth to her writing & a kindness to how she depicts the frailties we all possess. So nothing happens in a suburban Southern commuter town! This book pa ...more
Leslie Siegmund
Feb 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Penelope Lively writes novels about ordinary people and relationships in England—generally, my favorite kind of books. However, this book about a small village community putting together a historical pageant to raise money for the chuch’s restoration is not one of her best.
Dee roe
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

For any reader who enjoys an intelligently written 'cozy' book, beware of this Lively provides a good dose of the unfairness of life.
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Not a bad book just wish it had gone a bit deeper or more thoroughly into the lives and characters portrayed.
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
Thoroughly satisfying read as usual with this author.
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Judgement Day, by Penelope Lively.

Terrific book! It held me from the first page to the last, and had me laughing and crying. The ending was a total surprise and took my breath away completely.
Ian McNair
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Believable characters and a compelling plot are a winning combination. I enjoyed reading this.
Jul 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: england, read-in-2013
"Judgment Day takes us into the life of Clare Paling, who has just moved with her family to Laddenham, a seemingly drowsy village enlivened by sideshows of adultery and gossip. An avowed agnostic who has a preoccupation with the savagery of fate, Clare is nonetheless caught up in the restoration of the church, even inciting the villagers to put on a pageant that re-creates the church's dark past. With flawless precision, Lively brings the village and its inhabitants to life as an unpardonable de ...more
Oct 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paper-books
(#39 in my Year of Reading Women)
I'd never read anything by Penelope Lively before - I'd heard the name a lot, but had no idea what to expect .... I think from the name Penelope (probably because of Penelope Keith) I expected something effete, upper middle class and a little bit vacuous. But I was completely wrong - well, it IS a bit middle class, I suppose - but the writing in this book is top notch. It's a little bit objective, standing to one side from the characters and the action, but it's
Judgement Day is a strange book that I somehow failed to engage with fully. It's a tale of unfulfilled lives set around a small village church 'perilously sited...beside the Amoco garage, its grey stone extinguished by lime green and tangerine plastic bunting flapping along the perimeter of the adjoining forecourt'. Published in 1980, it feels very much of its time, and there's an aura of failure and frustration about the characters and their environment. The urgent need for repairs to the churc ...more
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like Penelope Lively's books so much because of the warmth they convey and ability to draw me in. I actually read this years ago and was the first thing I downloaded on Kindle. It is an ejoyable short read which, particularly where the awkward vicar and the Waspish Mrs Paling were concerend, I found very humourous!
I beleived the story to be set some time around 1980- we are given a feel for the time as well as the setting which helped me create an atmosphere for the book. The church is one of
Sara Van Dyck
Dec 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
The residents of Laddingham, a small English village, barely know each other. Unexpectedly, they find a common purpose in planning to restore their ancient church, and then in an ensuing crisis. Working together, they learn about each other, privately reflect on the pains, the narrowness or selfishness of their own lives, and emerge sadder but wiser, or just sadder. Sydney, the church warden who lost his wife and child in the war, isolates himself, yet suddenly realizes: “It was one thing to hav ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Dec 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: place-uk
This is a story about a small town; like all stories about small towns, the secret lives of the inhabitants are more sordid than anyone would care to admit. Lively's strength comes from her exploration of these secrets, the deft way she comments on class, gender, and education. Clare Paling, the newest resident of Laddenham, is an avowed atheist who loves the language of the King James Bible; her passion for art spurs her to be part of a committee focused on restoring the squat local church. The ...more
May 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
I loved this book with its use of the everyday to illustrate deeper themes and its ability to understand and sympathise with differing points of view. It was also good on making the children real characters instead of weak accessories.
But....I found the ending almost unbearably sad to the point where it almost spoiled my enjoyment of the book. Partly this because the dramatic, tragic ending seemed to me not to fit well with the rest of the gentler pace of the book even though there was some inci
Sep 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
History persists and keeps playing out in people's lives, and it isn't always picturesque, although most people, like the amusingly annoying Miss Bellingham, much prefer the theme park version of it (quaint costumes, heritage buildings, maypole dancing). People are just as complicated and messy, hard, often impossible, to know, mysterious to us, yet in small moments we can see someone astonishingly clearly. And the whole thing is messy and shocking and joyous and painful and beautiful, sometimes ...more
Steve Mayer
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book would remind me of a Barbara Pym novel if I had ever read one. It is very much about a church, and one of the central characters is a vicar. And its concerns are, if not religious, then very much concerned with fate and faith. And, indeed, fate intervenes in this novel in surprisingly many ways, most of them with disastrous consequences for those concerned. (This is the third novel I have read in the past couple of months in which some of the characters are killed in the London blitz.) ...more
Patrick Ladbrooke
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A lifelike view of parochial life in an English village in the 1960s. George Radwell, the inept and somewhat seedy vicar in his mid forties, wrestles with a sexual infatuation with married atheist parishioner Clare Paling. The church restoration committee throws them even closer together and the tension grows, as does the intrigue as to whether a relationship will be consummated or not, and Ms Lively keeps us waiting until the very last page to find the answer. Packed with great characters, accu ...more
Ma'lis Wendt
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Set in Laddenham, a far London suburban village, Judgment Day explores the life of the diverse neighbors living around the village green, adjacent to the old St. Peter and Paul church. Lively tells her story from the viewpoint of the various families with lots of explanation of beliefs and unbelief. The church is in need of repair and a village committee plans an unusual festival with tragic results. I enjoyed this quiet book with all its many facets.
Julie Sternberg
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I love the way Penelope Lively conveys a scene with pitch perfection from different characters' perspectives. I love how her characters spring to life in a matter of paragraphs. I love that she raises big issues (faith, the nature of history, what truly matters, what lingers through time) through a story focused on one small neighborhood, in one moment in time. And her use of language! Genius.
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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
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