Making It Up by Penelope Lively – 20 Books of Summer 2024

Making It Up by Penelope Lively was first published in 2005. It’s one of my 20 Books of Summer.  This book is an exercise in ‘whatiffery’ something which we all indulge in from time to time I’m sure. What would have happened if I had taken another path in life, all those decisions that we take – or don’t take. It’s a really good read.

The blurb on the back says: Taking moments from her own life and asking ‘what if?’, Penelope Lively constructs fictions about possibilities and alternative destinies.

As you would expect she starts off with a story about her childhood, Mozambique Channel. Born in Egypt, she was caught up in WW2, when it looked like the Germans were going to be heading for Cairo, the civilians that could get on ships did so and sailed for South Africa, but the journey was a dangerous one.

In Imjin River the what if is about her husband who had been due to be sent to Korea as war had broken out there while he was doing his National Service.

Transatlantic is the one which spoke to me most I think as it is about leaving your own country to live elsewhere, and how that impacts on your life and experiences.

Other stories have the titles  – The Albert Hall, Comet, Number Twelve Sheep Street, The Temple of Mithras and Penelope.

These ‘what ifs’ are entertaining, but I found the explanations and the backgrounds which Lively has written for each one to be even more interesting.