The Photograph

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Imagine the audacity of an author, writing a book containing not a single likable character. Who would have the nerve, the balls to do that?


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Penelope Lively, that's who, and her little venture has paid off handsomely in a well-crafted, absorbing book, full of scoundrels and harpies, that makes you pay attention to these people, even as your fingers throb with the desire to throttle them. Glyn discovers a photo of his late wife. She is clasping hands with another man. It is a picture of thinly disg Imagine the audacity of an author, writing a book containing not a single likable character.

It is a picture of thinly disguised lust. The other man is her brother-in-law, Nick.

Glyn's first thought after "Son of a bitch! The swine runs straight to his dear, dead wife's sister, Elaine, to expose her husband for the lying, cheating bastard he is. This leads to a portentous chain of events and the introduction of even more loathsome characters.

Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield To Lead Universal's The Photograph

And yet, I had trouble putting the book down. I had to know what was going to happen next. How could all these awful people have such a hold on me? These people, so caught up in their own lives that they failed to notice the needs of others; they could not see the loneliness and boredom in the eyes of their supposed loved ones. And then, I realized I'm guilty of these crimes. I barely glanced at my husband as he left for work this morning. And what shirt was my son wearing today?

Did I even look? Perhaps I should start again What author would dare to reveal us for the monsters we really are? Thoughtless, uncaring, oblivious View all 13 comments. Sep 18, Katie rated it really liked it Shelves: husbands-wives. What follows is a narrative investigating how fundamentally unknowable everyone is. The four characters of this novel are brilliantly drawn, each one Lively brings vividly to life.

This rather fizzled out towards the end. There was a sense that what was proposed as an anarchic event simply caused a storm in a teacup. A solid rather than inspired novel. Moon Tiger remains my favourite of her novels by a long stretch. View all 16 comments. I was intrigued enough to immediately request it from the library. While I do not feel the level of obsession over this novel the two writers felt, I understand it. In fact, obsession is one of its themes—the understandable, though selfish, compulsion to reorder memories after learning a key piece of knowledge not discovered until years later.

View all 12 comments. May 23, Lisa rated it it was ok Recommends it for: not many. While the premise was totally interesting, the implementation of it was NOT. Plot was meandering not in a good way , characters were almost all unsympathetic, and it was just sort of boring overall. I did read it and finish it, but only because I was on a hour flight and had nothing better to do! Not horrible, but not as entertaining as I'd like a book to be.

View 1 comment. Sep 04, Mark rated it really liked it Shelves: fiction. Thank you, thank you, Penelope Lively. At a time when I really needed a good writer to tell a good story about real grown-ups dealing with real situations, this novel came along.

At the outset, landscape historian Glyn is rummaging around for a paper he needs and finds an old photograph kept by his wife, who had died some years before. In it, she is seen surreptitiously holding hands with his brother-in-law, Nick. This starts him out on a journey to discover what was going on, and more importantl Thank you, thank you, Penelope Lively.

This starts him out on a journey to discover what was going on, and more importantly, to find out whether his memory of his wife is deeply flawed. In the process, we meet Nick, a perpetual boy living off his successful landscape designer wife, Elaine. Both are drawn so skillfully by Lively that you can be disgusted with Nick's fecklessness and attracted to him at the same time, and you can admire Elaine's courage and work ethic while still seeing the emotional distance she imposes on others. Floating through it all is enigmatic Kath, Elaine's beautiful sister, who is dead and whose image now has to be reshaped by everyone who knew her.

Like so many good novels about the human condition, this is not a story filled with action or plot twists or sudden shocks -- it is more like real life, compelling and absorbing and meaningful in quieter and more complicated ways. View all 5 comments. Sep 29, Ramona rated it really liked it. Penelope does a great character study of Kath and the impact that those around her had on her life. For much of the novel we are left to speculate as to how Kath dies, but if one reads closely, it is very apparent that she commits suicide ten years into her marriage.

Glyn finds a photograph years after her death of her discreetly holding hands with Nick, her brother-in-law. How long did it last? Were there others? Elaine kicks Nick out—he is so dependent on Elaine financially and otherwise that he moves in with his daughter, Polly, which totally disrupts her life. Elaine will not discuss the matter with Polly or Nick. Keep in mind Kath was a beautiful woman with few aspirations other than to be needed and loved, but no one seemed to realize this.

Do we really see people we know inside? Do we listen? Behind and beyond her looks, her manner, there had been some dark malaise. But nobody ever saw it, back then, he thought. All you saw was her face. And of living without her, in a fresh, sharp deprivation. May 19, notgettingenough rated it really liked it Shelves: modern-lit.

Walking along the beach one day, my friend Paul told me that he'd saved a young man trying to kill himself there not so long ago. Upon engaging the distraught would be suicider, he discovered that the reason for his unhappiness with the world, or with himself, was his extreme beauty. It prevented normal relations with people, with the world.

This is a story of such a person - I imagine it's impossible to understand unless one is in that position.

Stage & Theatres

We have no conception, after all, that one could b Walking along the beach one day, my friend Paul told me that he'd saved a young man trying to kill himself there not so long ago. We have no conception, after all, that one could be too beautiful. Too ugly maybe, too tall, too intelligent, but never too beautiful.

Difficult as it may be to grasp to see the burden of it, to empathise with it, Lively delivers. View 2 comments. Mar 31, Kate rated it did not like it. I looked forward with great anticipation to Penelope Lively's The Photograph. I believe it was selected for Today's Book Club, and most reviews have been very favorable. I must admit that I was highly saddened.

I rarely discover a book I don't enjoy at least in some aspects, but I must say this one is an exception…I read the first few chapters, then thumbed through the rest, eager to find something that would peek my curiosity, really anything, that might capture my attention, but it in no way h I looked forward with great anticipation to Penelope Lively's The Photograph.

Nicéphore Niépce and Daguerre

I rarely discover a book I don't enjoy at least in some aspects, but I must say this one is an exception…I read the first few chapters, then thumbed through the rest, eager to find something that would peek my curiosity, really anything, that might capture my attention, but it in no way happened. The book to me was wearisomely uninteresting, so much so that as short as it is I barely made it through half of the book. I could have cared less about the ending.

View all 3 comments. Nov 10, Julie rated it liked it. This book won the Booker Prize, so I sort of expected a little more. It was an engaging enough read, but I figured out the great revelation of the book halfway through and then just had to wait to get there. Most of the characters spend the book gradually realizing how self-absorbed they are, which is sort of the message of the book, but I found their self-absorption so annoying that I felt like I couldn't appreciate the lesson. May 01, Roger Brunyate rated it it was amazing Shelves: mysteries-kinda.

It is equally absorbing, but I think the greater achievement. While dealing with similar concerns—families, the power of memory—it is more concentrated, darker in tone but richer in its observation of human nature, and ultimately the more satisfying book. Had Lively not already won the Booker Prize with Moon Tiger , it would be easy to see this novel as a strong contender. The premise is simple. Glyn Peters, a sixtyish British archaeologist, comes upon a group photograph that includes his late wife, Kath. Details in the photo, and a brief note that he finds with it, suggest that there are aspects of Kath's married life that he didn't know.

So, researcher that he is, he makes some enquiries. Consequences ripple outwards from there, affecting a tight group of people who had been connected with Kath.

The Photograph

These include: Elaine, her older sister, a successful garden designer; Elaine's husband, Nick, a former publisher, now full of plans that seldom come to fruition; Oliver, Nick's former business partner, now running a desk-top publishing business of his own; and Nick and Elaine's daughter Polly, who had been very close to Kath growing up and is now a web designer.

All of them remember Kath as a force of nature, stunningly beautiful, a magnetic presence in any room. Although there is little present-day action in the novel, Kath is very much alive in the memories of those who were close to her. Her incandescence comes through from the very beginning, but as we move through the heart of the novel into its poignant conclusion, we begin to glimpse the real woman behind the brilliant glow, and each of the characters finds something different in the Kath whom they thought they knew.

Consider again the various professions: archaeologist, landscape architect, publisher, web designer. As always with Lively, it seems, these are typical concerns for people of this class at this time. But there is more; they are all about manipulating and arranging given data to make a certain pleasing sense.

Nickelback - Photograph [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Glyn's speciality is the history of landscape, reconstructing a lost way of life from the line of a hedge or the shape of a field; he is used to the way new discoveries can change old perceptions, and he approaches the study of his late wife in the same way. As a garden designer, Elaine also works with the natural features of a landscape, but builds on them, forming them into a new pattern to fulfill an aesthetic concept; this turns out to have been an acute analogy to her relationship with her younger sister.

The History of Photography

The other characters, as publishers or designers, are concerned with putting out words or pictures that will attract the eye, make apparent sense, and sell to the public. Lively seems to suggest that we treat our memories in much this way; by trying to wrestle them into patterns, putting them between glossy covers as it were, we may distort the natural shapes that point to more subtle meanings. There is one other significant character in that photograph, Kath's friend Mary Packard. Mary is a potter, a profession that also involves the shaping of raw material into pleasing forms, but in a more basic and instinctive way.

The raw material is not landscape but the dirt of which it is made, and the pot grows like a living thing in the potter's hands. It is not surprising that Mary understands things about Kath that even her family has missed. It is her appearance at the end of the story and her ability to listen for all the others are talkers that provides the final clues that make us see Kath in a new and gentler light. Writing this review, I had the feeling of some other author hovering over Penelope Lively's novel. I now realize who it is: the Virginia Woolf of To the Lighthouse.

Of course The Photograph is by no means as difficult a book to get through, and it breaks little new formal ground. But it is similarly constructed out of a series of interior monologues, unbidden thoughts, and chance reflections. It is written with the assumption that the inner world is every bit as important as the outer one, only richer and more revealing. And Lively shares Woolf's power of making the reader look at his or her own life in ways which will never be quite the same again. A magnificent achievement!

Jul 05, Jennifer rated it really liked it Shelves: After reading a few novels by Penelope Lively I know not to expect a page turning plot. Instead, Lively develops characters and events that seem to come directly from an average life but she shows us a new way of looking at them.

In this case, we never really meet Kath but we learn about her from those who should be closest to her - but they also never really know her until long after she is gone. How many people in our own lives do we know and know us deeply? At times I felt like Kath may have After reading a few novels by Penelope Lively I know not to expect a page turning plot. At times I felt like Kath may have been her own worst enemy but then again - are these reliable narrators? And, as in life, is there really a true version of any story or are there only different versions of what each person experienced?

Jun 14, David rated it really liked it Shelves: read-in This book's central McGuffin, the discovery of a decade-old photograph showing that Kate now dead had an affair with her sister's husband, didn't seem all that promising to me. But Penelope Lively's exploration of the repercussions of this discovery is brilliantly done - the characters and their reactions ring true, the writing is beautiful.

Lively is particularly good at capturing the messiness of people's emotional lives. This book hits on all three cylinders - characters, plot, and writing. It's the first novel I've read by Penelope Lively. It definitely won't be the last. May 19, Orla Hegarty rated it really liked it Shelves: sentbynlpl , requested-from-nlpl-provincial-libr , friends.

I think this is my first Penelope Lively book. And I am so glad that one of my goodreads friends recently discovered her with this book and gave it a great review - this prompted my request from my library. Lively was 70 when this book was first published and she has a lengthy award winning list of previous books before that.

I look forward to reading more by this master. The story line is quite compelling and all revolves around said Photograph. The photograph contains the image of a now dece I think this is my first Penelope Lively book. The photograph contains the image of a now deceased woman and her husband accidentally discovers it.

The POV shifts constantly and allows a story to unfold about this dead woman Kath. By the end of the book we have a clearer understanding of Kath and what the passage of time and memories can do to each of our stories. For it is only the stories that remain at the end I raced through it and only had to use a dictionary about a dozen times so I not only had a very enjoyable couple of long weekend afternoon reading sessions but also learned some new vocab.

Jan 23, Diane rated it really liked it Shelves: fiction. I like most all books by Penelope Lively. This is a good story, well told with some disturbing things to think about. She explores the way we see and know and don't know those closest to us. It was disturbing to think that perhaps I am also more interested in myself than in the people I love so they are only out of focus pictures rather than real people.

Glyn discovers a photograph that indicates that his wife Kath, who died young about 10 years previously, had had an affair with his brother-in-l I like most all books by Penelope Lively. Glyn discovers a photograph that indicates that his wife Kath, who died young about 10 years previously, had had an affair with his brother-in-law. Glyn becomes obsessed with finding out if there were other affairs.

He visits anyone he can find that might know about Kath and any possible affair. He is unable to hear what people say about Kath. The people who knew her slightly seem to be more in touch with her than her family - husband, sister, brother-in-law, niece. A nice device; a bit overdone, but Lively writes well and wears well. Penelope Lively's books are always a pleasure to read, and this is a beautifully constructed and moving novel. The emotional centre of the book is Kath, who is now dead. Her husband finds a photograph of her which reveals an affair with her brother-in-law, and the story follows the upheavals of the various protagonists as they are forced to adjust their memories and feelings, discovering that none of them really knew her.

Mar 03, Lauren rated it did not like it. Feb 28, NC Weil rated it it was amazing Shelves: british-lit. Penelope Lively is the most precise writer since Henry James. Where he carries the reader to the heart of his observation in a closing spiral of phrases set off by commas, Lively offers carefully-spun details, the particulars of work and relationships. And where James offers a Pointillist view of his subject, those dots of deliberately expressed color coalescing at a distance into an image, Lively weaves in tapestry fashion - these threads, these shadings - from which patterns emerge, become viv Penelope Lively is the most precise writer since Henry James.

And where James offers a Pointillist view of his subject, those dots of deliberately expressed color coalescing at a distance into an image, Lively weaves in tapestry fashion - these threads, these shadings - from which patterns emerge, become vivid; yet, a few more passes of the shuttle subtly change what we see. And when she is finished, Ah. We know she's done, every thread has been incorporated, nothing remains to say, the picture is complete.

Lively's novel The Photograph begins straightforwardly enough: Glyn, a landscape historian rummaging through old papers in his closet, discovers an envelope he's never seen. The photo inside is of a group of people: his wife Kath, her sister, her sister's husband, a woman friend and her man friend.

And his wife and her brother-in-law are holding hands in an intimate clasp, unseen except by the camera. Kath has been dead some years - how can this revelation make a difference now? And yet, as Glyn confronts those in the photo with its evidence, one person after another finds life shaken from its moorings. This sylph with her vital glow revisits them all, undoing their certainties, reasserting the mystery that surrounded her.

Lively uses her found-object catalyst to examine people's relations to work, to family, to friendship, to the entire range of emotions from dissatisfaction and jealousy to the full storm of love. This slight novel, pages, pulls no punches, employs no gimmicks, promises nothing it does not deliver.

We are in the hands of a master. There is no bombast, only the struggles and escapes familiar to us all, directed and pointed to illuminate a life. If you appreciate clear simple language which lays bare the hidden heart in all its complexity, you should read this fine book. Aug 27, Bonnie rated it it was amazing Shelves: contemporary-fiction. This book currently has a 3. This is essential reading for anyone with an interest in photography and the visual arts; it will also appeal to readers interested in the social history of the last years.

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