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Moon Tiger Paperback – September 18, 1997

4.1 out of 5 stars 152 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Lively recently won Britain's prestigious Booker Prize for this deeply moving, elegantly structured novel. The heroine is Claudia Hampton, an unconventional historian and former war correspondent who lies in a hospital bed dying of cancer. Forced inward, Claudia moves randomly across time and place to reconstruct the strata of her life. But "most lives have their core, their kernel, the vital centre"; Claudia's is the brief, tragic encounter she had in Egypt during the war with Tom Southern, a British tank officer on leave from battle. Tom's voice, along with those of her brother and daughter, joins Claudia's to shape a narrative that is a complex, intricately composed fugue. This haunting evocation of loss is Lively's finest achievement yet.Laurence Hull, Cannon Memorial Lib., Concord, N.C.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“A powerful, moving and beautifully wrought novel about the ways in which lives are molded by personal memory and the collective past.” —Boston Globe

“Emotionally, Moon Tiger is kaleidoscopic, deeply satisfying. The all too brief encounter between Claudia and Tom will surely rate as one of the most memorable of contemporary fictional affairs. This is one of the best novels I have read for years.” —The London Sunday Telegraph

“It pulls us in; it engages us and saddens us. It is also unexpectedly funny . . . It leaves its traces in the air long after you’ve put it away.” —The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (September 18, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802135331
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802135339
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Perception. That is the major theme that occurs throughout the novel. The way we see and interpret events may not necessarily be the way others perceive them. One woman's "History of the World" can only be based on subjective interpretation.
Claudia Hampton has lived a full, rich life. At the age of 76, she's now on her deathbed, recalling a myriad of poignant moments she had experienced in her long life. Many people have made an impact upon her life: her brother Gordon, for example, who was a mirror image of Claudia, and who shared in their borderline-incestuous relationship. Her daughter Lisa, as different from her mother as could be. Her lover of many years, Jasper, who served his purpose, but who never truly won her heart. The love of her life, Tom, who she only knew for a short period of time but loved deeply and powerfully. They all play a part in what she calls "Claudia's History of the World". The bits and pieces of her life come rapidly, with no chronological order to bind them together, and Claudia takes the time to muse over everything that has made her who she is.
MOON TIGER is extremely powerful at times and always eloquently written. The love story between Tom and Claudia is breathtaking. Selfishly, I wish it had been longer. I yearned for more character development and depth in Tom, although as readers, we know as much about him as Claudia herself did. Their romance was brief, but passionate, and it left me yearning for more right along with Claudia.
A word of warning: although the book is relatively short (at 200 pages), it feels lengthy and drawn out at times. Again, this only serves to highlight Lively's skill at writing Claudia's last experiences.
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Format: Paperback
An exotic novel about a love that haunts us from the grave to our own. Claudia's rendition of her affair in Egypt during a war, resulting in the loss of her great love and their unborn child, is depicted with an Englishwoman's genius of grammar, prose, and Latin-based mastery of the English language. Told through Claudia's story on her death bed between periods of consciousness, Penelope Lively distinguishes herself with the usage of narrative to describe a lifetime of mourning. Claudia mourns Tom throughout her adult and senior years as she lives a journalist's life in London, England. Lively's Claudia is a stubborn woman whose account of things, people, and relationships are rooted in her own view of the world. This is more than a romance, it is a look into the elements and pervasive condition of heartbreak over a lifetime. Tragic, humorous, and compelling. No wonder it was a Booker Prize - the most prestigious literary prize in the world for English language fiction.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Moon Tiger", for which the author won the Booker prize, is a book that I could admire, but not like. The main protagonist, Claudia Hampton, an accomplished historian, lies dying in a London hospital bed and looks back upon her life. The resulting series of first-person flashbacks, interspersed with third-person accounts of the same episodes, coalesce into a tightly constructed kaleidoscopic view of Claudia's life which is impressive for the skill with which it is achieved, but ultimately left me unmoved.

My fundamental problem with the book is that Claudia is such a self-satisfied narcissist that I tired of the recital of her various accomplishments and the smug superiority with which lesser characters in her history (her unfortunate sister-in-law, her disappointingly conventional daughter) are dismissed. Lively is no fool, and attempts to mitigate Claudia's unrelenting smugness with a brief episode of vulnerability and genuine emotion during a doomed World War II romance with a British tank commander who is subsequently killed in battle. The jacket cover inflates this episode by describing it as "the still point of her turning world", but the problem is that it fails to ring true. Ultimately, the version of Claudia that dominates the narrative is that of the smug, superior harpie. To whom my reaction was - why should anyone possibly care?

So, while I can admire the skill with which this book was written, the emotional vacuum at its core ultimately left me cold.
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Format: Paperback
Thoroughly enjoyable. Claudia Hampton, a popular historian, lies dying in her hospital bed contemplating a tongue-in-cheek "History of the World." But what mainly emerges are memories of her own life, more vivid for her and the reader than the friends and relatives who visit from time to time. One theme dominates: her time in Egypt as a war correspondent in the 1940s and the great love of her life whom she met and lost there. Here, the writing is superb, with a compelling emotional immediacy and magnificent sense of place.* But interesting though the rest of Claudia's life is, it tends to pale beside these central chapters, hence the reluctant absence of the fifth star.

It also sets me wondering about the shape of the book as a whole. I have now read three of Penelope Lively's novels: her latest, CONSEQUENCES (2007); THE PHOTOGRAPH (2003), which I consider the best of the three; and this one, MOON TIGER, which won her the Booker Prize in 1987. All three are essentially romances. All feature independent women doing interesting jobs (writers, artists, academics). Despite their personal independence, the women are shown within the dynamics of families, in relation to a mother, a daughter, or (here especially) a brother -- only very occasionally a husband. Claudia, for example, is unmarried, but we hear of at least three men whom she has loved in different ways. She has a daughter, Lisa, who understands as little of her mother as she does of her; almost of equal significance to Claudia are her first baby lost in a miscarriage, and a Hungarian refugee whom she unofficially adopted.
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