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Authors: Penelope Lively


BOOK: Spiderweb
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‘A wonderfully astute and quietly clever novel’ Kate Campbell,
Evening Standard

‘I greatly enjoyed Penelope Lively’s
She is one of those few compulsory authors whose books I find I must read’ Jill Paton Walsh,
Independent on Sunday,
Books of the Year

‘Her literary ancestors are novelists like Elizabeth Taylor and Barbara Pym, whose ostensible subjects – domesticity, the rural community, virtue and patience – give way to visions of savage exoticism, sex and freedom’ Philip Hensher,
Mail on Sunday

‘Seethes with contentious ideas’ Gillian Fairchild,
Daily Telegraph

‘As in her earlier novel,
Heat Wave,
Penelope Lively shows herself an astute and unsentimental portraitist of rural England, that highly-subsidized wasteland of suicidal angst and hazardous chemicals’ Hilary Mantel,

‘Penelope Lively on good form: a typical story of quiet, respectable people and their turbulent inner lives, delivered in quiet, respectable, yet occasionally devastating prose’ Gill Hornby,
Literary Review

‘Terrific’ Leslie Geddes-Brown,
Country Life


Penelope Lively grew up in Egypt but settled in England after the war and took a degree in history at St Anne’s College, Oxford. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a member of PEN and the Society of Authors. She was married to the late Professor Jack Lively, has a daughter, a son and four grandchildren, and lives in London.

Penelope Lively is the author of many prize-winning novels and short-story collections for both adults and children. She has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize; once in 1977 for her first novel,
The Road to Lichfield,
and again in 1984 for
According to Mark.
She later won the 1987 Booker Prize for her highly acclaimed novel
Moon Tiger.
Her other books include
Going Back; Perfect Happiness; Passing On,
which was shortlisted for the 1989
Sunday Express
Book of the Year Award;
Cleopatra’s Sister, Beyond the Blue Mountains,
a collection of short stories;
Oleander, Jacaranda,
a memoir of her childhood days in Egypt;
Spiderweb; A House Unlocked,
a second autobiographical work; and
The Photograph.

Penelope Lively has also written radio and television scripts and has acted as presenter for a BBC Radio 4 programme on children’s literature. She is a popular writer for children and has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award. She was appointed CBE in the 2001 New Year’s Honours list.



Going Back

The Road to Lichfield

Treasures of Time

Judgement Day

Next to Nature, Art

Perfect Happiness

Corruption and Other Stories

According to Mark

Pack of Cards: Stories 1978-1986

Moon Tiger

Passing On

City of the Mind

Cleopatra’s Sister

Heat Wave

Beyond the Blue Mountains


The Photograph

Making It Up


Family Album

How It All Began


The Presence of the Past: An Introduction to Landscape History

Oleander Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived

A House Unlocked

Chapter One

The west of England was once remote, inaccessible and inconvenient. Somerset, Devon, Cornwall. Country cousins lived there, whose uncouth accents provoked ridicule when they came up to town. It was picturesque, in those parts, but barbarous, and to be avoided except for purposes of absentee landownership.

All that has changed, except that the place remains scenic – though perhaps rather less so. The three counties are now quite close to the centre of things – to Birmingham and Liverpool and Manchester and London. Consequently the balance of the country shifts, come high summer. The north and the centre tip down into the west in such concentration that when there is no longer a single car-park space left, or boarding-house bed, or vacant bay on a caravan site, they have to put up the ‘Cornwall Full’ sign on the county boundary.

The natives of the West Country are still there and they continue to speak with distinctive voices, but they are joined now by many others – those who have drifted west and slotted themselves into the local economy, those who have ended up there in remembrance of an agreeable summer holiday.

Ancestry and happenstance divide the population, today – people who nave always been there and people who came there fortuitously. For these last, fortune can serve up some strange conjunctions.

North Somerset Herald

occupying a peaceful situation a mile from Kingston Florey village and with excellent views in a southerly direction.

Good-sized living-room with inglenook, kitchen/breakfast-room, bathroom, bedroom, bedroom/boxroom. Pleasant gardens to front and rear.

Mains water and electricity. Septic tank drainage.

: The property lies off the
4167, going east from Kingston Florey. Access is by way of the lane to the right half a mile beyond the village (with sign indicating T. G. Hiscox, agricultural contractor).

T. G. Hiscox
Agricultural engineer and contractor

Grass silage
Muck spreading
Power harrowing
Combine harvesting
Repairs and servicing
Agri-pac bagging system
Ploughing crawler or 4 w/d
Maize drilling and harvesting
Mole draining and subsoiling
Heavy discing

Richard Faraday to Stella Brentwood

Dear Stella,

I have cast an eye over the property advertisements in the local paper, as requested, and believe I may have come up with a possibility. Particulars enclosed. It meets your specifications in various ways – absence of busy adjacent road, good rural views. The place is situated in a quiet backwater – a scatter of nearby cottages, one farm, and at the far end of the lane there are the bungalow and repair yard of an agricultural contractor – at some considerable distance and therefore not a potential source of noise or nuisance. I have had a scout around the area and found everything most agreeable.

Since my previous letter a few thoughts have occurred. I am sure that you will find these parts as congenial for retirement as I do. I feel, though, that I should warn you there are aspects of life down here which you might find it difficult to come to terms with, if you do decide to follow this through. Forewarned is forearmed!

: you are drawn to this area by the glories of the landscape (I take it). Relatively mild, yes (very little frost or snow – influence of the sea), but wet. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

: this is a rural area – hospitals and such are spread thin. Expect to have to drive twenty miles to get your teeth seen to – that sort of thing. But of course you will have considerable experience of this on your various field trips. I merely mention the matter.

: as above.

: You will be doing a lot of this (arising out of the preceding points) – mostly in narrow lanes which do not allow two vehicles to pass except at gateways or deliberately constructed indentations in the hedgebanks. The local convention is that the vehicle going uphill is the one to do the backing. On the flat, it is a question of staring down the opposition, if equidistant from a passing place. Tractors, milk tankers and agricultural suppliers always have right of way. I advise a small, manoeuvrable car. I drive a VW Golf.

: both fox and stag. An entrenched local tradition. Adverse comment can provoke ill feeling, and worse. I strongly advise a policy of silent neutrality, whatever your natural reactions may be.

: I seem to recall that you are agnostic, but I would suggest, with all respect, that you stretch a point and attend Sunday Matins, at least on occasion. You will thus establish yourself in the community and make useful contacts. It is a question of social expediency rather than a spiritual commitment.

Let me say again that I am very pleased that you may settle in these parts. I know that Nadine would have been delighted to think that her oldest friend would be my neighbour, so to speak. Please let me know if there is anything further over which I can be of use.



North Somerset Herald

: Livestock and Poultry
Free range eggs, rabbits (live & frozen oven-ready), ducks, young cockerels from £5.50. K. Hiscox, T. G. Hiscox, Agricultural Engineers, Kingston Florey.

Women’s Institute Reports

: The newpresident, Mrs Joyce Williams, welcomed twenty-six members and friends. Mr Paul Hampton spoke on bee-keeping and its products, which was very interesting. After the meeting members were able to buy honey and candles made by his bees. Refreshments were served and the retiring president Mrs Pleydell and secretary Mrs Davies were thanked for all their hard work over the last three years and presented with a rose bush each.

Live Music

The Mayfair Bar, Minehead
Thurs: Blossom Sisters and Crazy Jane
Fri: The Devils Incarnate
Sat: Hullabaloo

Foxhampton Barbarians RFC
Under 17s Disco Rave at Foxhampton Rugby Club
Friday 4 May, 7.30–11.00 p.m.


Clarkton Farm Meet. Mr and Mrs Apsley kindly entertained all comers. Hounds moved off to draw Pinner Wood, where they found and went away across Hallows Farm, down Clac-ombe to Parkers Plantation, over to Wester Lea, down Mapley and ran swiftly to Lannersmead, where he went to ground. Hounds were taken back to Eastcombe, where they drew with no luck, cast down through Candon Water and up on to the heath where a fox was found. Hounds ran well in a circuit back to Eastcombe, where the scent was lost. Hounds found again in the quarry but checked almost at once, cast on over Shapcott, into Burnley Wood and round Bittersedge without finding again, so the day ended.

It is possible, within this deeply rural landscape, to play golf, to go hang-gliding or moto-cross racing, or to indulge in a bout of ten-pin bowling or skittles any day of the week. You can sail, cycle, walk, ride. You could also take up country dancing or enjoy change-ringing or go fishing. The visitor is richly indulged and may choose between castles, abbeys, stately homes, gardens of national repute, scenic railways, tropiquaria, farm parks, country life museums, trout fisheries. There are fifteen hunts within a radius or thirty miles, including harriers and beagles.

You might think that the entire place is given over to the purveying of leisure activities. This is not so. Real life continues here, beneath the surface gloss of brown signs inviting a departure from the main roads carrying glittery lines of cars which slice their way though the green quilt of fields and hills. People are still growing things and selling them and providing one another with services and necessities. Most of them spend much of their time in one place, contemplating the same view, locked in communion with those they see every day. For some, this is a stranglehold; others are more fortunate. It all depends on perspective.

BOOK: Spiderweb
7.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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