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Spiderweb (2000)

Spiderweb (2000)

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3.35 of 5 Votes: 1
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0060929723 (ISBN13: 9780060929725)
harper perennial

About book Spiderweb (2000)

"At age sixty-five, retired anthropologist Stella Brentwood buys a cottage in Somerset, England, and slowly acquires neighbors, a dog, and a professional curiosity about the country village where she intends to settle and put down roots for the first time. She has spent her life studying communities of people -- their families, social structures, how they welcome outsiders into their midst -- remaining an observer, privileged to share in their intimate life but not obliged, and finally unwilling to tie herself closely to any lover, friend, or social group. In Somerset, Stella once again finds an opportunity to become part of the web of relationships that make for human society, as well as a chance at true friendship and love. How will independent-minded Stella, always reluctant to make an emotional commitment, respond? Written in exquisitely nuanced prose, Spiderweb is a captivating and deeply moving novel, a brilliant vision of our modern experience."~~back coverI expected to adore this book! Anthropology has always been my "thing" -- I love learning about other people, other cultures, other societies just about as much as I love archaeology (which is a subdiscipline of anthropology in America.) Coupled with a look at life in a small country village in England ... what's not to like?Well the way the author handled the plot, for starters. Stella gets plunked down in an odd corner, not exactly in the village, with generally uninvolved neighbors, except for the nasty lot at the end of the lane. The subplot of when are the nasty neighbors going to attack (as they inevitably must) becomes almost as dominant a theme as how will Stella respond to her chance at a relationship, which is characterized by typical English reserve and the endemic lack of passion of both parties.The overall impression is lack of involvement, with any of the characters, and a general fading away of the plot.I was so disappointed.

This is the story of a woman who has worked all her life as an anthropologist not having put down roots in any location. Now at age sixty-five she decides to buy a cottage and try to become part of a community.More and more I find myself drawn to books about older women. It's a natural progression, I suppose, to want to identify with characteristics and emotions common to our age. As the wonderful Penelope Lively writes about Stella Brentwood in Spiderweb: "The various papers in Stella's desk told her that she was sixty-five. The face in the mirror - at which she gave only the most perfunctory glances these days - seemed like some disturbing distortion of her real face. These jowls, those pouches. The backs of her hands were brocaded with brown blotches beneath which twined the thick grey worms of veins. But miraculously preserved within this uncompromising prison of flesh and bone were all those other Stellas, all co-existing, all bearing witness, all available for consultation." While the world may wish to paint all older people with one brush, in actuality there are the old, the older and the oldest, and within each group is more diversity than is usually recognized.In this novel as in her others,Penelope Lively writes truthfully about the lives of her characters.

Do You like book Spiderweb (2000)?

At roughly 2/3 of the way through the book, I have no interest in going further. The "web strands" here are a mish-mash of past and present that didn't work for me at all: Stella (in the present), Stella (in the past), and a third "thread" concerning a local family (omniscient point-of-view, except for Stella's few encounters with them) - an incredibly grim, dysfunctional lot; at one point the son kicks Stella's dog (first shown from Stella's P.O.V.), later regretting he didn't kick it harder (from his p.o.v.) - UGH!

I really enjoyed this book. It nagged at and tugged at my terrible urge for worldly travel. Plus, it fulfilled (for a bit) my almost insatiable hunger for things undeniably British. Last but not least, Lively does a remarkable job telling an expansive story with in a very short space. This is a sweet look at aging, family, the uncertainties of place and whether we ever really change. What can be recovered. Not to mention the gender issue thing:) This is my first Lively novel, I wonder what her others are like. Looking at the timeline of Lively's life, she must have been losing or had just lost her husband who she had been with for decades. This seems somewhat apparent, though not exactly directly.I really enjoyed this little book, yes I did.

This book has an intriguing set-up: a recently retired social anthropologist settles in rural Somerset. I always like the idea of "second" (or third, or fourth) acts in life. I'm really interested in the notion of choosing a new life for oneself. But you know that truism: wherever you go, you take yourself (and your problems) with you? The catch is that Stella has never been able to make a commitment to any place or person. Despite having based her character on studying family connections ("lineage groups"), she has studiously avoided making any connections of her own. (The novel does a good job of illuminating Stella's character by making selective forays into the past.) She observes the society around her, but maintains a certain detachment. Although the ending of the book is probably VERY consistent with everything we've learned about Stella, it is still a horrible let-down . . . and really, rather disappointing.
—Beth Bonini

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