Because of divorced parents, Penelope Lively spent whole summers in Somerset with her grandmother in a large Lutyens-style house which she has almost photographic recall of. Her memories become a small but fascinating historical document, her memory jogged by items within the house. Her grandparents moved into the house in the early twentieth century. and her grandmother died towards the end of it. Lively remembers the house and it's inhabitants from the 1940s onwards, but with the aid of photgraph albums and items around the house, she recalls the history of the house and of course the family for around 70 years of the twentieth century.
And so this book becomes a small but telling history of that century and how the influences of the past are echoed in the house. A whole chapter about the garden will inform you about plant collectors, garden designers and ha-has; another about the Church and it's place in society. There are reflections on hunting, Alice in Wonderland and the class system. A sideways look at life after the Russian revolution of 1917, and kindertransport from Germany in the early days of WW2. Her unmarried and eccentric aunt was an artist whose ironwork still remains in a small village church in Somerset, and the grand piano remembered from childhood is still in possession of the family somewhere in North London.
A short read at just over 200 pages, it's a fascinating insight into a time now gone, but a time that left so many memories - the way good manners were so important, mode of dress (gloves must be worn) and how it has changed, and her thoughts on the changes she herself has seen. Her own grandchildren join her in bed for a breakfast "cuppa", but this would have been unheard of when she herself was small.
Fascinating reading if recent history is something you want more of. I enjoyed it!