On the surface, Penelope Lively's novels are unassuming and simple: two characters, in some kind of relationship, live. Their lives are expected, rather normal, ordinary. Lively's gift is her ability to plumb these lives and flesh out people who are fascinating and extraordinary.Moon Tiger is a beautiful novel that follows the life of Claudia Hampton. Like the amateur archaeologist that she is, Claudia reviews her life layer-by-layer as she convalesces in a hospital, assuming death. Like all the women of her generation, she experienced deeply the impacts of World War II -- she was a war correspondent in North Africa -- and she struggled to create a life for herself and her family. Unlike most women, however, Claudia never married and had a child out of wedlock. She maintained an intensely rivalry with her older brother that inspired them both. She challenged the people around her, herself.In Lively's hands, Claudia comes off complete, realistic: no romance novel heroine, Claudia is both boorish and elegant, strident and calm. Her relationships are three-dimensional and surprising. It is no surprise to me that this novel won the Booker Prize--I was heartbroken at it's end, half in love myself with Claudia.