Penelope Lively

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Penelope M. Lively
Penelope Lively.JPG
Lively in 2013
Born Penelope Margaret Low
(1933-03-17) 17 March 1933 (age 84)
Cairo, Egypt
Occupation Writer
Language English
Citizenship British
Period 1970–present
Genre Novels, children's fiction (notably contemporary fantasy)
Notable awards Carnegie Medal
Booker Prize

Dame Penelope Margaret Lively DBE FRSL (born 17 March 1933) is a British writer of fiction for both children and adults. She 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

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.[citation needed]

Since then she has published more than twenty books for children, achieving particular recognition with The Ghost of Thomas Kempe and A Stitch in Time. 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.[1] For the latter she won the 1976 Whitbread Children's Book Award. 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.[citation needed]

Adult works

Her first novel for adults, The Road to Lichfield, was published in 1977 and made the shortlist for the Booker Prize. 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 a 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 work, Dancing Fish and Ammonites, A Memoir, was published in 2013.

Beside 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

She was born in Cairo, daughter of Roger Low, a bank manager, and Vera (née Greer).[2] She spent her early childhood in Egypt before being sent to boarding school in England at the age of 12. She read Modern History at St Anne's College, Oxford, graduating with honours. She married the academic Jack Lively in 1957, and they had a son and daughter.[2]


Lively is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is also a Vice-President of the Friends of the British Library.[3]

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.[4]



  1. ^ (Carnegie Winner 1973). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Lively, Penelope 1933-". Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "Friends of the British Library Annual Report 2006/07" (PDF). Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  4. ^ "No. 60009". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2011. p. 6. 
  5. ^ London: Viking ISBN 9780670869053
  6. ^ Parker, Peter (21 October 2013). "Ammonites and Leaping Fish, Penelope LIvely, review". The Telegraph. 

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