|Penelope Lively's A Stitch in Time - study guide|
If you wish to work traditionally these activities can be done in an exercise book, or as a booklet using your own skills in illustration and writing.If you wish to use computer software for your work, this is quite appropriate. A separate contents list and page numbering would help. Some tasks may work well as speaking and listening activities; you are encouraged to present these live or make use of tape-recording or multi-media software recording to show your work. In such cases, where the guide refers to writing, you may respond by speaking.
If you want to buy A Stitch in Time, click on the relevant link below.
If you want to find out about the author, click on the link below - this will take you to Penelope Lively's official Web site.
Characters and characterization
This book is chiefly about Maria. Write about what sort of person she is, referring to evidence in the text.
Martin is the next most important character in the novel. Briefly describe him, considering especially how Maria sees him. You may wish to think about some of these things:
These could be depicted more briefly but include
Two very important characters who never appear directly are Harriet and her dog. Explain how Maria thinks of them, and how they come to fascinate her. What do we learn of the fate of each of them? Explain Maria's mistake about Harriet, and how it is corrected.
Places and things
In the novel a number of places and objects acquire enormous significance for Maria, and influence her ideas about past events. Other things are allowed, by her imagination, to hold conversations with Maria. Write about any things in the book which you think are important in this way. You may wish to consider:
The familiar proverb in the book's title suggests that its theme is time. There is a pun (joke on words) here as, Harriet's sampler has literal stitches in it and reflects a past time.
On the back of the book, in some editions, the publisher has quoted Maria's thought that places are like clocks. Explain what this means, as far as you can.
Maria thinks about the past in two different senses:
Try to explain and comment on either or both of these. Do you, in fact, agree with Maria's idea about places as clocks? Can you think of other places which are like clocks for you? Why is this?
Retelling narrative or adding a sequel
You may wish to tell, in your own words, a part of the story which you like, changing the viewpoint and style (for instance, letting Martin give his version of events).
You could add a sequel, writing about subsequent experiences of Maria (does she stay in touch with Martin, or come back to Lyme Regis?) or change the form of the story to a play-script. This story would work well as a radio play or, with location filming, a television drama, but is not well-suited to the stage: Maria's thoughts could be well-expressed as a voice-over, while you could add sound effects (the swing, seabirds, weather) to suggest various places, and unusual voice effects could be used for the cat or Harriet, say.
Another idea would be to story-board a TV sequence.
The author of this novel has introduced quite a large amount of factual detail, about which you might wish to find out more. The setting of the novel, Lyme Regis, is rather interesting. It is an old town, very fashionable in Regency (look it up!) times, which features in Jane Austen's Persuasion (1816) and John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman (1977), both of which have been made into film versions. It is in the county of Dorset, which is very important in the Victorian Wessex novels of Thomas Hardy. The area around Lyme Regis was where Britain's first fossil-hunters found their specimens.
You could find out about Lyme Regis generally or about Dorset as a county.
You might like to research life, especially rural life, in Victorian times more generally: novels such as Hardy's and those of Dickens, and factual books like Flora Thompson's Lark Rise to Candleford are excellent for this. Finally, you might wish to research further into fossils, and what they can tell us about pre-historic times.
Publicity and marketing
Book covers must carry certain information (such as author, title, publisher, ISBN with bar-code, price) but books usually also have a short descriptive or suggestive blurb superimposed on a cover design or illustration, to attract potential buyers and/or library readers. These are changed with new printings to reflect fashions and taste in graphic design at the time of production. You may wish to re-design the cover for a contemporary reader, using appropriate graphic skills (ask an art teacher for help, if need be). If you do this, show the whole cover, as if the book were lying open, face-down: this will mean that the back-cover will be on the left, and the front-cover on the right. You may also design advertising posters for bookshop or bookfair display.
You could extend this activity by producing a range of materials to promote the book, or Penelope Lively's work generally - suitable for display in bookshops and bookfairs.
© Andrew Moore, 2002; Contact me