cover image Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived: A Memoir

Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived: A Memoir

Penelope Lively. HarperCollins Publishers, $20 (133pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017106-3

Lively, the Booker prize-winning British author of Moon Tiger , here recalls her childhood in Egypt from the mid-1930s until her parents divorced in 1945 when she was 12. This intriguing memoir of growing up in another culture relies on Lively's perception of experience rather than on a detailed chronology of events. Her father, whom she rarely saw, was a manager at the Bank of Egypt; her mother was taken up in the expatriate social whirl. Lively's upbringing was left to Lucy, a young English woman, who was first her nurse and then her governess. The author's impressionistic portraits of Egypt, Alexandria and Palestine evoke sights and smells that are, in many respects, no longer accessible. Already suffering emotionally from parental neglect, Lively was further traumatized when her return to England caused her to be separated from Lucy. A sad and engaging reminiscence. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Apr.)