Sometimes I go on and on about the most pointless things. It’s apparent to me now that my most recent blog post was one of those times. I don’t know why I felt the need to dwell on that book’s title, for heaven’s sake, but that is what I did. Now to revisit the book itself.
Penelope Lively writes beautifully and she does so again in Consequences. The story spans several generations of women: Lorna (mother), Molly (daughter), Ruth (granddaughter) and the ways that they have influenced one another and been influenced by the artist Matt, whose brief life and briefer marriage to Lorna sets the stage for what follows. Can you call Matt the patriarch? He was the father of Molly but his early death makes him more significant for his absence rather than his presence.
Consequences takes place in Britain in the 1930’s up through the present day. The momentous events of the 20th century provide a backdrop but are not the central theme. Some might call this a home-front novel rather than a war novel, and that is accurate – even Ruth in the 21st century confronts the war’s aftermath when she travels to Crete to visit the site of Matt’s death. But it is art, rather than war, that really brings everything together in this book. Matt’s murals, painted for Lorna and rediscovered by Ruth link the women to one another.
I didn’t love this book as much as I have loved some of Lively’s earlier work, especially Moon Tiger and Oleander, Jacaranda, which is a memoir of Lively’s youth in Egypt. If you are new to Penelope Lively I would start with one of them.