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Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived Paperback – March 31, 1995

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Sheila Mitchell reads in a clear, somewhat acerbic English accent novelist Lively's memoir of living in Egypt as the daughter of an English civil servant, when England was only a far-off land that everyone spoke of with longing. She compares her memories to the places, people, and life she finds there now and, in so doing, treats the listener to a picture of a way of life largely vanished: children raised by servants in an English colony, contact with the locals mostly in their roles as domestics, and a child's view of life as an outsider in a land not her own. When she returns to England because of World War II, she has to comprehend that she is even more of an outsider there?this place where almost everyone she knew most wanted to be?than she was in Egypt. Mitchell is able to convey the emotions of both the child and the teenaged Lively. This compelling story of an author's early life offers insights both into British culture and into the books she would later write. Recommended.?Melody A. Moxley, Rowan P.L., Salisbury, NC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 31, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060926228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060926229
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,100,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While it becomes quickly evident how excellent is Penelope Lively's memory, reading this memoir opens up all kinds of doors.

In the book there is a wonderful theme of how we think of the past, and what the past means to us. There is also more than a glimpse into the lifestyles of 20th century British colonial elite. As a child, Lively could straddle different realms, different cultures, and this is the fascinating heart of the book.

She grew up with ruling class privilege in British-occupied Egypt, and yet she had a child's access to local village life. She had a devoted governess, but the grown Penelope realizes how little they shared of each other. There are many fascinating parallels of home and country, such as the weight of a distant, somewhat cold mother/land.

Nowadays, there's a lot written about the phenomenon of the Third Culture Kid. Usually, and to speak very simplistically, this refers to American kids who grow up overseas and cannot feel any true attachment to the US, but who are not visibly connected to the land where they spent so much of their childhood. In the worst scenario, these people can end up with severe feelings of rootlessness, and with a sense of never quite belonging. Lively beautifully and sensitively writes of this lack of connection.

Aside from Oleander, Jacaranda being a wonderful story of returning, it is a comforting read for those who are affected by Third Culture Phenomena. I urge ALL EXPATRIATE parents to obtain and read this book! My third culture daughter read it at age 15, and I would recommend it to others in her age group and cultural situation.

Also great by Penelope Lively: Moon Tiger (Fiction).
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By A Customer on March 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is not only a memoir of Penelope Lively's childhood in Egypt in the 1930's and 40's, but also a meditation on childhood perception and how it differs from the way one sees as an adult. Lively manages to present the direct, self-centered, sensual perceptions of a child; but she also writes of her later re-interpretations of her childhood experience with adult hindsight and an adult's complex, but clouded, vision. The last chapter, in which she "returns" to England -- exotic, inscrutable England -- is beautifully rendered, turning on its head the experience of the Westerner visiting the exotic East.
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Format: Audio Cassette
Penelope Lively's autobiography is dense with a beautifully arranged description of her unusual childhood and offers the reader a chance to imagine life as a young child growing up in a lifestlye with changing surroundings that only an adult should be handling! Lively's writing styles (very apt colloquialism for this sort of book) blend in with the content of her descriptions of her childhood and the humourous moments she had with Lucy, her nanny/best friend. Her travels are illustrious and vibrant allowing the reader the escapism into the lands of Egypt from Cairo to Khartoum!
I love this book and the memories passed on from Lively through to me are treasures to read!
I'd give this a six if it were possible!-PKane
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Penelope Lively writes an interesting type of memoir. She grew up in Cairo during the Second World War and she writes of her recollections of that great city from the point of view of a child: not an easy task. An adult looking back of childhood memories is one point of view. Lively tries to recall her thoughts and feelings as a little girl, not an easy task. THE RESULT IS WELL WORTH READING.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Being from the same age group and Europe although from the axis area I loved every page of this wonderful book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My first dead tree book in several years. Recommended by a friend and I enjoyed the story and the style.
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