Penelope Lively, a two-time shortlistee, finally picked up the award with Moon Tiger, a novel of subtlety and sweep that is still one of the Booker Prize’s most underrated winning novels.
An elderly female former war correspondent and historian lies dying and decides to write a history of the world, with her own life at its centre. And at the centre of that life is her brief love affair in wartime Cairo with a British soldier who died in action.
Lively’s novel, her 10th, gathered warm reviews on publication but some, unfairly, contained more than a hint of condescension too, suggesting it was rarefied women’s fiction. A ‘Moon Tiger’ is the name of an incense coil to repel mosquitos.