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Penelope Lively

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Penelope Lively

Lively in 2013
Lively in 2013
BornPenelope Margaret Low
(1933-03-17) 17 March 1933 (age 91)
Cairo, Egypt
EducationSt Anne's College, Oxford
GenreNovels, short stories, children's fiction (notably contemporary fantasy)
Notable awardsCarnegie Medal
Booker Prize
(m. 1957; died 1998)
Children2, including Adam Lively
RelativesValentine Low (half-brother)
Rachel Reckitt (aunt)[1]

Dame Penelope Margaret Lively DBE FRSL (née Low; born 17 March 1933)[2] is a British writer of fiction for both children and adults. Lively has won both the Booker Prize (Moon Tiger, 1987) and the Carnegie Medal for British children's books (The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, 1973).

Children's fiction[edit]

Lively first achieved success with children's fiction. Her first book, Astercote, was published by Heinemann in 1970. It is a low fantasy novel set in a Cotswolds village and the neighbouring woodland site of a medieval village wiped out by Plague.[2]

Lively published more than twenty books for children, achieving particular recognition with The Ghost of Thomas Kempe and A Stitch in Time.[2] For the former she won the 1973 Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject.[3] For the latter she won the 1976 Whitbread Children's Book Award.[4] The three novels feature local history, roughly 600, 300, and 100 years past, in ways that approach time slip but do not posit travel to the past.[5]

Adult works[edit]

Lively's first novel for adults, The Road to Lichfield, was published in 1977 and made the shortlist for the Booker Prize.[6] She repeated the feat in 1984 with According to Mark, and won the 1987 prize for Moon Tiger, which tells the story of a woman's tempestuous life as she lies dying in a hospital bed. As with all of Lively's fiction, Moon Tiger is marked by close attention to the power of memory, the impact of the past upon the present, and the tensions between "official" and personal histories.

She explored the same themes more explicitly in her nonfiction works, including A House Unlocked (2001) and Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived (1994), a memoir of her Egyptian childhood. Her latest nonfiction work Ammonites & Leaping Fish: A Life in Time, (latterly known as Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir)[7] was published in 2013.

Besides novels and short stories, Lively has also written radio and television scripts, presented a radio programme, and contributed reviews and articles to various newspapers and journals.

Personal life[edit]

Lively married academic and political theorist Jack Lively in 1957.[8] They had a son and a daughter. Her husband died in 1998.[9] She currently lives in London.[10] Her house contains paintings, woodcuts and Egyptian potsherds.[8]

The journalist Valentine Low is Lively's half-brother.[11]


Lively is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is also a vice-president of the Friends of the British Library.[12] She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1989, Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2001, and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to literature.[13]

Lively was 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 won the 1987 Booker Prize for her novel Moon Tiger.[10][14]



  1. ^ Cressida Connolly (26 August 2001). "So many rooms - but no room for sentiment". The Observer. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Dame Penelope Lively". britannica.com. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  3. ^ (Carnegie Winner 1973). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Archived copy of page at carnegiegreenaway.org.uk, Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  4. ^ "Costa Book Awards" (PDF). 29 December 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 December 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  5. ^ A STITCH IN TIME by Penelope Lively | Kirkus Reviews.
  6. ^ The Man Booker Prize -fiction, 1977: The Shortlist: '...Peter Smart’s Confessions/ Great Granny Webster/ Shadows on our Skin/ The Road to Lichfield/ Quartet in Autumn' at themanbookerprize.com, Accessed 15 April 2018
  7. ^ Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir first published October 10th 2013; Original Title: Ammonites and Leaping Fish: A Life in Time at goodreads.com, Accessed 24 April 2018
  8. ^ a b McGrath, Charles (4 May 2017). "'A Writer Writes': Penelope Lively's Fiction Defies the Test of Time". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  9. ^ Reeve, Andrew (30 October 1998). "Obituary: Professor Jack Lively". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Penelope Lively". penelopelively.co.uk. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  11. ^ Chris Tryhorn (9 May 2008). "Low joins Times from Standard". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  12. ^ "Friends of the British Library Annual Report 2006/07" (PDF). Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  13. ^ "No. 60009". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2011. p. 6.
  14. ^ Moon Tiger By Penelope Lively -Published by Deutsch Accolades: The Man Booker Prize 1987 Winner at themanbookerprize.com, Accessed 24 April 2018
  15. ^ Beyond the Blue Mountains (1997) London: Viking ISBN 9780670869053
  16. ^ Parker, Peter (21 October 2013). "Ammonites and Leaping Fish, Penelope LIvely, review". The Telegraph.

External links[edit]