Oleander, Jacaranda : A Childhood Perceived, Paperback

Oleander, Jacaranda : A Childhood Perceived Paperback

Part of the Penguin Modern Classics series

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


This autobiography is about growing up in Egypt. It is also an investigation into childhood perception in which the author uses herself and her memories as an insight into how children see and know.

It is a look at Egypt up to, and including, World War II from a small girl's point of view, which is also, ultimately, a moving and rather sad picture of an isolated and lonely little girl.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Autobiography: general
  • ISBN: 9780141188324



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Oleander, Jacaranda. A childhood perceived is not so innocent as it sounds. Penelope Lively writes that she conceived the title from her experience as a child in car rides, observing the blossoming shrubs, alternatingly planted along the road: Oleander, Jacaranda, Oleander, Jacaranda, Oleander, Jacaranda. Flowers you don't see much in England.Although Penelope Lively may have many beautiful memories of Cairo and Egypt, the memoir consists of a mix of impressions, through the lens of the mature author. These memoirs are based on actual memories, and memories induced through photos, and a visit to Cairo. These three views are all mingled, and present the memoir with a great deal of nostalgia. All familiar sights find a place, although some are introduced very late, so that "Groppi" isn't mentioned until page 80, or so.Naturally, the home, with the garden and a small pond are all lively in the author's memory, although she wonders how memory plays games, as the size of the pond is incorrectly remembered, probably because to a small child the pond appeared bigger. This distortion works through at various levels. Moreover, the reality of the present day is different from that forty years ago. Then, the children could swim in the harbour of Alexandria, as the water was clean.Oleander, Jacaranda. A childhood perceived is a wonderful memoir for readers who get a fuzzy feeling of nostalgia about British imperial past. The memoir breathes the air of nostalgia, and celebrates the expat / colonial lifestyle, with its white superiority over the local population.

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