The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories

Publisher: Viking
A glimmering collection of new short fiction from the Booker Prize winner.

“Lively writes with an astringent blend of sympathy and detachment, emotional wisdom and satiric wit.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

In such acclaimed novels as The Photograph, Family Album, and How It All Began, Penelope Lively has captivated readers with her singular blend of wisdom, elegance, and humor. Now, in her first story collection in decades, Lively takes up themes of history, family, and relationships across varied and vividly rendered settings.

In the title story, a Mediterranean purple swamp hen chronicles the secrets and scandals of Quintus Pompeius’s villa, culminating with his narrow escape from the lava and ash of Vesuvius. “Abroad” captures the low point of an artist couple’s tumultuous European road trip, trapped in a remote Spanish farmhouse and forced to paint a family mural and pitch in with chores to pay for repairs to their broken-down car. Other stories reveal friends and lovers in fateful moments of indiscretion, discovery, and even retribution—as in “The Third Wife,” when a woman learns her husband is a serial con artist and turns a house-hunting trip into an elaborately staged revenge trap.

Each of these delightful stories is elevated by Lively’s signature graceful prose and eye for the subtle yet powerfully evocative detail. Wry, charming, and keenly insightful, The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories is a masterful achievement from one of our most beloved writers.

PRAISE FOR

Praise for The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories

“Impressive, surprising, and fun.”
—Boris Kachka, New York Magazine

“Lively’s productivity has been so steady and reliable that she is sometimes taken a little for granted. In this country she is not nearly as well-known as she ought to be. . . . Her prose is sharp, precise, perfectly pitched, but shrinks from flashiness. . . . Her books just get crisper and more tightly controlled.”
—Charles McGrath, The New York Times Book Review

“How well do we ever know another person? That’s the leitmotif of this witty but piercing new collection by Man Booker winner Lively. . . .  Even in her darkest tales, Lively’s fundamentally serious take on our tangled emotional lives is never bleak, merely ruefully accepting. A treasure trove of fictional gems.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Lively struts her stuff in this collection of delectably acerbic and canny short stories. In gin-and-tonic prose, Lively, steeped in history and fluent in English conventions, is keenly forensic when it comes to the nature of hypocrisy and stoicism, secrecy and lies. . . . . Lively, perfect for fans of the Margarets Atwood and Drabble, as well as Shirley Jackson, neatly tracks class divides, the fizzling of marriages, and a long-brewing rivalry. Droll fables and mordant ghost stories round out this adroitly wise and mischievous gathering.”
Booklist

“The same measured intelligence and subtle humor that characterizes Lively’s novels is present in this story collection. The stories often bear rereading, as Lively’s quiet elegance rolls by so smoothly. . . . Effortless and masterly.”
Publishers Weekly


Praise for Penelope Lively


“Lively writes with an astringent blend of sympathy and detachment, emotional wisdom and satiric wit.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times


“One of our most talented writers.”
The New York Times Book Review

“A consummate storyteller.”
—The Seattle Times

“In her own late seventies now, with a legion of regular readers and newcomers with every book, Lively continues to surprise and illuminate, writing to ever more dazzling effect.”
The Boston Globe

“Witty, gentle-humored, sharp . . . Lively is a keen observer and an engaging narrator.”
—NPR’s All Things Considered