Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

First published:-1987

Star rating:-

Read in:- December, 2013

Claudia Hampton speaks to me of wars fought in distant lands, of the ever-persistent forward march of humanity in the quest for collective betterment, of stories unknowingly buried forever in the catacombs of time and never unearthed, of the people we carry in our hearts wherever we go, of the history of the world intertwined with our own. Claudia tries to make sense of the cacophony of voices inside her head and outside, of conflicting opinions colliding violently creating sparks that burn down empires and turn to rubble the foundation of regimes. Claudia tells me a story of the past melded with the present. 

Claudia's history of the world isn't one-sided. She accedes, to all the players involved, their right to speak for themselves, to say that which has been coldly snubbed by the opinionated historian of the past. Claudia does not look at past events through the lenses of established notions, of opinions passed off as indisputable facts. Larger than life heroes are reduced to the status of mere mortals in her eyes, violent uprisings become a trigger for devastating tragedies instead of turning points in the history of a nation's struggle for liberty. Images of a world war become indiscernible from the images of her lover who dies fighting in it and the entailing heartbreak she could never purge from her memories no matter how hard she tried. The unyielding bond she shares with her brother Gordon, her rival, her biggest critic, her most devoted admirer, and in the end her lover, remains intact even after he is no longer there to provoke her, to argue with her relentlessly, to urge her on towards becoming a more refined version of herself. 

"For there are moments, out here in this place and at this time, when she feels that she is untethered, no longer hitched to past or future or to a known universe but adrift in the cosmos."

Claudia never became what others wanted her to be, stubbornly trudging along a path forged by none but herself. She loved the daughter born out of wedlock dearly, but from afar, without the grand show of affection expected of any mother. And as she lies in that hospital bed, her life force slowly ebbing away, a frail old woman of 76, misunderstood by the ones dearest to her, my heart weeps for the grief that she kept carefully hidden from everyone, a secret she carried to her grave. But I bid her farewell with a smile, soothed by the knowledge that her life was, after all, a life well-lived.

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