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Judgment Day

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  424 ratings  ·  57 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
Paperback, 210 pages
Published February 20th 2003 by Grove Press (first published 1980)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  424 ratings  ·  57 reviews

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May 13, 2022 rated it liked it
A strong 3 stars. 🙂 🙃

A somewhat short novel (210 pages) about a small town somewhere not terribly far from London in, I think, the 1980s. It involves a vicar, an agnostic and her family, the churchwarden who lost his wife and daughter in The Blitz of WWII, and a couple who are in a marriage that is not working well and their 10-year-old son. And a motorcycle gang of young men who occasionally drive into the town and vandalize various places.

I have a number of other books on my shelves by Penelo
Joy D
This is a low-key story about a rural English community getting ready to put on a fundraiser for their local church. Key characters are the vicar, a newly arrived agnostic and her family, a couple having marital issues and their confused teenage son, and a lonely man who takes in the teenager when his parents leave town. It is about life, faith (or lack thereof) and community.

Up to about the three-fourths point, I was enjoying it very much. Unfortunately, it then takes an unexpected turn and bec
May 01, 2021 rated it really liked it

Judgment Day is an intelligent, mostly benevolent depiction of village life in Oxfordshire in the late 70s. Clare Paling, self-confident, attractive, shockingly agnostic, a stay-at-home mother with degrees, becomes the object of sadsack beta male vicar George Radwell's sexual daydreams. Sydney Porter's wife and daughter were killed decades ago in a London air raid; now he hoes his garden and gets a second chance to love a child when neglected Martin from the slatternly parents next door needs a
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.

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.
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.
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.
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. ...more
Nov 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wow. Good book. Love her writing style!
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
"It's a crude threat, that division into the damned and the saved; as crude as the weighing of souls. All to induce guilt - guilt and therefore compliance. Do as I say, or else. Nowadays we are less gullible, but we still feel guilt: different guilts. When I contemplate the day of judgment it is not the possibility of salvation I have in mind." ...more
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. ...more
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.

Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Every once in a while a book comes along that reminds me why it’s worthwhile reading fiction. This is one of those books. It’s set in a small English village during one spring and summer and has to do with a group of people who are planning a fundraiser for the village church by focusing on its history.

On the surface that might seem like a rather boring subject for a novel but it’s what’s going on in the lives of the planning committee that makes this one of those novels well worth reading. The
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
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 packs an u ...more
Jan 12, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2021
Interesting to compare this to 'According to Mark' written some four years later. 'Judgement Day' felt very much akin to Aga sagas, but checking I find it preceded them by a decade, which makes her growth as a writer, in four years, hugely impressive, particularly when compared to some Aga writers whose style has not changed one iota in the thirty years since.

And really, even then, this is a cut above, particularly is its much less than sugary ending.
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not new, not startling but quiet and subtle and, of the more traditional kind of novel, very well done. It registers the small-scale human suffering of loneliness, awkwardness, hopeless desire and inspects a faith and village community with clarity and sympathy. A rougher, more disorderly world threatens, but real loss and sudden death are cruel precisely because they are so random.
Artie LeBlanc
Aug 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I became very involved with this book. As ever, the characters are credible, some sympathetic, some very much less so. Lively has an excellent sense of the private, deeply personal feelings of her characters.
The story gathered me up and I read it quite quickly: but it will remain with me. It's really rather sad.
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.
EB Fitzsimons
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brit-lit
A church needs restoration and a new arrival to the village takes on organizing a fundraiser. All around, the lives of the inhabitants are ticking away, spared by grace one day and struck down the next. A short, brutal struggle of faith and fate.
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.
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.
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.
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
Thoroughly satisfying read as usual with this author.
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every novel of Penelope Lively's that I read, makes me want to read more! ...more
Alan Parton
Nov 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
mesmerising!! The best Lively novel to date.
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Play Book Tag: Judgement Day by Penelope Lively - 2.5 stars 1 7 May 24, 2022 12:02PM  

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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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