Having achieved moderate success during her early career and then fallen out of favour, she was dramatically rediscovered and re-evaluated only three years before her death. Since then her stock has been high, despite a touch of condescension evidenced in her being seen as a miniaturist and novelist of manners, and likened to
. She is also related to such contemporaries as
(her senior) and
(her juniors). Her fiction focusses on middle-class, unmarried women constrained to live on the margins of society. It is unfailingly sensitive to the more ludicrous aspects of gender conventions. Lively argues that what is going on is not tart observation of social manoeuvrings but a devastating, sublimely unfair, wonderfully funny and ultimately fatalistic analysis of the relations between men and women.
was a distinguished, understatedly comic novelist of the twentieth century, whose autobiographical writings (diaries, letters, and notebooks) were published only after her death.