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Penelope Lively webchat 7 August

(79 Posts)
KatGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 07-Jul-14 16:12:36

In this powerful and compelling 'view from old age', Penelope Lively, at 80, reports back on what she finds. There are meditations on what it is like to be old as well as on how memory shapes us. There are intriguing examinations of key personal as well as historical moments she has lived through and her thoughts on her own bookishness - both as reader and writer. Lastly, she turns to six treasured possessions to speak eloquently about who she is and where she's been - fragments of memories from a life well lived.

We're giving away 50 copies of Ammonites & Leaping Fish by Penelope Lively - just fill in the form here.

'fraid all the free copies are gone, but for those who receive and read the book (and indeed anyone else!!), please do post your questions and comments for Penelope on this thread. She'll be answering your questions on 7 August 1-2pm.

milliener Tue 29-Jul-14 15:53:56

Dear Penelope, I find the media's view of getting older so very negative and would love to know the things you have found to be positives in writing your book.

WBundecided Tue 29-Jul-14 15:54:29

Thank you for my copy, I have started dipping into it, it seems to be that sort of book; you dont necessarily have to read from the beginning. I am very interested in all the things that were happening when I was in blissfully ignorant childhood; The Suez Crisis, Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis etc. I look forward to continuing the book and to getting involved in the blog. Thank you

rosesarered Tue 29-Jul-14 16:10:16

I am enjoying reading Ammonites And Leaping Fish enormously.Penelope says the very thing that My Grandma once said rather sadly, passing a mirror and hardly recognising the 'self' that it showed, but that 'it was still her underneath' for Penelope says 'this old age self is just a top dressing, it seems;early selves are still mutinously present, getting a word in now and then.'How right she is! I also like the fact [that she mentions] in that being older, we can choose NOT to do the things we would rather not do any more, be it foreign travel or attend a boring party.There are compensations in being old after all. My children all used to like Ms. Lively's books, and as we were living near Oxford , there was a connection as I think [not totally sure] that she lived there for a while.I hope I will look as good when I reach her age, as well as having her sharp mind [or even half of her sharp mind!]

keriku Wed 30-Jul-14 10:23:07

I particularly liked how she chose a few items which were special to her to mark the story of her life. It made me wonder which items I would choose. It also made me think as I always do of all the items we see shuddering on shelves in charity shops, vintage stores etc and of the stories which lie behind the. Items don't have to be valuable to have great value to the owner! Thank you gransnet, for once again sending me a lovely book to review.

SwishySwoshy Wed 30-Jul-14 13:11:02

Hi Penelope - what sort of gran are you?!

Roarr Wed 30-Jul-14 13:18:23

Hello! I'm still reading the book - love it so far. I'd like to ask, do you think ageing is easier for men than women?

Rosannie Thu 31-Jul-14 13:43:02

I've just returned from holiday and was delighted to find a copy of Penelope Lively 's book behind the door. I have Moon Tiger and A House Unlocked on my bookshelves and I'm looking forward to reading Penelope's latest book, it sounds interesting!

Nelly Thu 31-Jul-14 17:16:17

In my opinion getting older has changed very much over the last generation or two. 60 used to be old. Now it is positively young (or is that just because I'm there now and in denial?) I would love to hear her thoughts on how "old" has changed

somewherehot Thu 31-Jul-14 17:23:37

out of all the many wonderful books you have written do you have a favourite

Stansgran Fri 01-Aug-14 10:19:42

I'm half way through and agreed with every word. I've still got some years to catch up with PL but I also agree about making the choice of not travelling. If I never see the Gare du Nord again it won't be a day too soon.(I have just left it and reading as I travel) I love the cover. How much input do you have in choosing the design? Do the publishers just say we think this will sell or do you say I would like such and such on the cover?

ajanela Fri 01-Aug-14 17:45:44

In 1968 I was working as a nurse in Fords Motor plant in Dagenham. At the time the 187 women machinist went on strike in protest about their low wages compared to the men and with the help of Barbara Castle they influenced the bring about of the Equal Pay act in 1970.

What important changes do you see in Women's lives in your life time and has everything been for the best?

Gagagran Mon 04-Aug-14 08:06:54

I love this book. It puts into words, better than I ever could, what it feels like to be old and how "old" is defined at different ages,

I'd like to ask what Penelope thinks of the assisted dying debate. Is it something she would use herself?

stitchinggran Mon 04-Aug-14 16:13:30

Hello Penelope and thanks for coming to chat to us. What age have you yourself most enjoyed to date?

GeminiJen Tue 05-Aug-14 00:10:13

Re. Biggles.....Thanks, Tegan!

gardenoma Tue 05-Aug-14 08:26:29

I never scribble in my books but there is always a first time!
Got my pencil out in the first chapter, there were so many lines which struck so many chords, so now i put my pencil away as i could barely see PL's text anymore.
It is good to see such a non moaning, very realistic and thoughtful view of getting older.
It is also the first time i have read anything on ageing which hasnt left me feeling in any way despondent. Thank you

CuriousCat Tue 05-Aug-14 08:29:28

We are an ageing population no question- I think it's something like one in four (may be wrong!) baby girls born today will live to 100. But do you think the wider world (or the wider population of the UK at least) accepts that or are they burying their heads in the sand and ignoring us "invisible women"?

Pulp Tue 05-Aug-14 08:39:35

One thing that irritates me about getting older is that people seem to stereotype you instantly - they think - oh grey haired woman and patronise you or talk loudly to you and it makes me very cross. Have you found this - and have you been able to rise above it if so (in which case you are certainly a better woman than me!) Thank you for so many happy hours of reading over the years

Brummiegran Tue 05-Aug-14 22:33:22

The Road To Lichfield was your first book for adults. I read it only a few years ago and found it an inspiringly realistic view of middle age. Do you find it easier to write non fiction/memoirs nowadays? If so why?

MiceElf Wed 06-Aug-14 06:42:57

So many questions, but the first one I'd like to ask was what made you change from children's fiction to adult fiction? I remember reading, Astercote, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe and the others to my children and being entranced. We were all sad that more books for children didn't appear.

emmasnan Wed 06-Aug-14 13:53:51

I enjoyed your book, it made me realise that there are benefits to being older!
I especially liked the chapter where you had chosen a few items to mark stages in your life. Did you find it difficult to narrow it down to those few?

joannapiano Wed 06-Aug-14 20:52:12

How heartening to read an upbeat book about ageing.
The phrase on the first page-"We go, but hang in for a while in other people's heads-" made me smile as I have always felt it would be very nice (sorry to use that word folks!) if I lingered a bit in my 8 GC's
thoughts occasionally, after I pop my clogs. A comforting thought.
"How will life unroll for my grandchildren?",-a question all of us are curious/anxious about. On that note-does the author think it likely that any of her grandchildren will follow her footsteps and become a writer?
Perhaps Izzie with her vintage typewriter?

Maniac Wed 06-Aug-14 22:13:59

Dear Penelope
I'm enjoying your book so much.Just 2 years older than you I can remember many of the happenings you mention.and appreciate your thoughts on ageing. I've long been a fan of your books which I shall reread and read those I've missed.
Like gardenoma I shall break my rule about scribbling in books and underline some of your thoughts about life and ageing

Growing up in poverty in a home with few books I still developed a thirst for reading.passed the 'scholarship'exam did well at school passed the School Certificate you mention (now O levels) and went on to a science degree at London Uni
Last year I paid my first visit to Cheltenham book festival.Sorry I missed your event there.
I've had a full and varied life but not done much writing! My children urge me to write my life story.I've recently started a simple blog for friends and family.have you any tips?

MiceElf Thu 07-Aug-14 07:36:31

One of the sentences that resonated most with me was where you lamented that you will not know what comes after your death. What will happen to grandchildren, how will they flourish or not. I feel sadness that I shall not know, and I do wonder how memories of me will remain with them when they reach old age. Your grandchildren are older than mine; have you asked them how they see you - what they remember from earlier in their childhoods about the things you did together and the conversations which you had?

GigiGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 07-Aug-14 12:52:55

Good afternoon everyone, we're thrilled to have Penelope here at a rather hot and sticky GNHQ now. She's having a cool drink before getting down to answering all your questions and comments so do say "Hi" smile

PenelopeLively Thu 07-Aug-14 13:02:24


My very welcome copy arrived in today's post - thank you so much. Stopped what I was doing to start reading; no delayed gratification here. Enjoying it as much as Oleander, Jacaranda and A House Unlocked, both of which I use in my creative writing classes and workshops - as examples of the value and power of memory in writing. And simply because they are just such wonderful books . . .

So glad my books have struck a chord with you and delighted that you find them useful in your creative writing classes. I hope Ammonites will live up to expectations!