A friend recommended Consequences by Penelope Lively with such enthusiasm when she was about ten pages into it that I had to pick it up immediately. I read The Photograph last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The theme of the novel is formulaic: fate and consequences control our destinies. However, the formula is deftly handled by Lively.
The novel focuses on the lives of three women: Lorna, her daughter Molly, and Molly’s daughter Ruth. The book opens with Lorna sitting on a park bench crying after an argument with her mother. She catches the eye of a young artist named Matt who is at the park sketching ducks for a wood engraving he has been commissioned to produce. They end up blissfully married and forever thankful for the commission, the argument, and the park bench. Lorna is a young bride with a small daughter living with her husband in a cottage nestled in the English countryside when World War II breaks out.
Not much more can be said about the plot without spoilers. As with most books focused on fate every event leads to a chain reaction of other events right up through the last page.
I’ve read some reviews of the book since finishing it and have been very surprised to find some rather harsh criticism of the pace of the story (too fast), the development of the characters (or lack thereof), and the stilted dialogue. I feel as if I read a different book. Granted, packing 3 generations of women and their families into 258 pages makes for a pace that never lets up. Herman Wouk she is not. On the other hand, though, do we need every detail of what was eaten and worn and thought to grasp the story and the feeling of the time? Either the answer is no or I am far more intuitive than I imagined.
As for character development, I finished the book over a week ago as of this writing and still miss the characters. They are well-drawn, warm, easy-to-relate-to characters.
The dialogue may not be as natural as one might like, but it makes a point and pulls pieces of the story together to highlight the events that move the characters through the story. I had no issue with the dialogue at all.
Maybe I missed something, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more by Penelope Lively.