Moon Tiger (1987)

by Penelope Lively

As Moon Tiger opens, 76-year-old Claudia Hampton is in hospital, dying of cancer. Having made her career as a popular historian and war correspondent, she decides to write "a history of the world . . . and in the process, my own.  . . . Let me contemplate myself within my context." That history will reveal a Claudia with vulnerabilities and secrets her family never suspected.

Introduced early in Claudia's narrative are her adored, simpatico brother Gordon, their conventional widowed mother, Gordon's boring wife Sylvia, Claudia's long-time lover Jasper, and Lisa, the daughter they consider dull and don't really understand. Vulnerable is not a word any of them would use to describe Claudia. Tough, acerbic, strong-willed would be more likely. Not until a third of the way into the narrative does Claudia get to the secret "core" of her life's story. Working in the atypically female role of war correspondent in the North African desert in World War II, she had a brief, intense affair with British officer Tom Southern. His death devastated her, and she has kept him a secret for four decades. Now remembering Tom in poignant detail, she reveals a more sympathetic self than she presented to the world.

Moon Tiger is lyrically written, mostly in the first person, with other voices interjected here and there so that readers can see things from other than Claudia's point of view. It won Britain's Booker Prize.


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