We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access .
 >   > 
How It All Began Audiobook

How It All Began

When Charlotte Rainsford, a retired schoolteacher, is accosted by a petty thief on a London street, the consequences ripple across the lives of acquaintances and strangers alike. A marriage unravels after an illicit love affair is revealed through an errant cell phone message; a posh yet financially strapped interior designer meets a business partner who might prove too good to be true.
Regular Price:$19.95
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Publisher's Summary

A vibrant new novel from Penelope Lively - a wry, wise story about the surprising ways lives intersect.

When Charlotte Rainsford, a retired schoolteacher, is accosted by a petty thief on a London street, the consequences ripple across the lives of acquaintances and strangers alike. A marriage unravels after an illicit love affair is revealed through an errant cell phone message; a posh yet financially strapped interior designer meets a business partner who might prove too good to be true; an old-guard historian tries to recapture his youthful vigor with an ill-conceived idea for a TV miniseries; and a middle-aged central European immigrant learns to speak English and reinvents his life with the assistance of some new friends.

Through a richly conceived and colorful cast of characters, Penelope Lively explores the powerful role of chance in people's lives and deftly illustrates how our paths can be altered irrevocably by someone we will never even meet. Brought to life in her hallmark graceful prose and full of keen insights into human nature, How It All Began is an engaging, contemporary tale that is sure to strike a chord with her legion of loyal fans as well as new readers. A writer of rare wisdom, elegance, and humor, Lively is a consummate storyteller whose gifts are on full display in this masterful work.

©2012 Penelope Lively (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“Katherine Kellgren is an agile, appealing narrator who navigates the many characters with ease. Whether voicing a native Londoner or an English-language learner from the Continent, Kellgren exudes effusive and consistent energy…This is a well-paced, fun recording of an entertaining novel.” (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (274 )
5 star
 (65)
4 star
 (98)
3 star
 (79)
2 star
 (26)
1 star
 (6)
Overall
3.7 (228 )
5 star
 (54)
4 star
 (82)
3 star
 (64)
2 star
 (18)
1 star
 (10)
Story
3.9 (225 )
5 star
 (76)
4 star
 (84)
3 star
 (39)
2 star
 (16)
1 star
 (10)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Lydia Stouffville, Ontario, Canada 05-21-12
    Lydia Stouffville, Ontario, Canada 05-21-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    11
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very engaging book!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend if the friend was interested in the English setting and genre. The narrator is absolutely fantastic and the story ties up beautifully. It is a very believable story set in contemporary times which appeals to me a lot lately.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of How It All Began?

    I don't think about most memorable moments. Instead I judge the novel as a whole. If I am interested from hour to hour that is what matters.


    What does Katherine Kellgren bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Just a fantastic narration on all levels. One of the best narrators I have heard.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret 01-21-16
    Margaret 01-21-16 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "charming tale"
    If you could sum up How It All Began in three words, what would they be?

    Stories occur because of seemingly random events that change people's lives. The characters were interesting, likable, recognizable.


    What other book might you compare How It All Began to and why?

    Can't think of one.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I like the story of the daughter, her relationship with her husband and the man she tutored in English.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Buzzell Hollis Center, ME United States 04-09-15
    Karen Buzzell Hollis Center, ME United States 04-09-15 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Just not a great story"

    I thought it would develop but it never did. The reader had a nice cadence and voice. Could not recommend.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurene New York 03-23-14
    Laurene New York 03-23-14 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    338
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    98
    38
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    25
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Delightful mixture of the funny and poignant"

    The premise of this novel is that a single event -- the mugging of an elderly lady -- can through its ripple effects change the lives of several people. Because Rose needs to convalesce at her daughter's home, her daughter meets one of Rose's pupils (she teaches immigrants to read English) and falls in love for the first time in middle age; unfortunately, she's already married. This is very sensitively and movingly handled. Other plots include Rose's employer, a prominent semi-retired historian, getting involved with plans for a television series -- that part is often hilarious as the slick TV producer decides he's so awful ("That waistcoat!") he could be a great presenter.

    The events/plot of the story are not momentous or even especially tense, but I was always eager to get back to the characters and their lives and enjoyed every minute of Kellgren's performance. I'd recommend this book to people who like Ruth Rendell or Muriel Spark, but would occasionally like a less dark version or their view of human nature. Lively is not too sweet, but neither is she as harsh as those writers can be.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diana 02-24-13
    Diana 02-24-13 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    21
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Penelope Lively at her liveliest"
    What did you love best about How It All Began?

    I loved the way the characters lives interacted with each other, each affecting the other without even knowing it. And what characters they were!


    What was one of the most memorable moments of How It All Began?

    When Marion realizes she doesn't have to give into despair and finally dumps Jeremy and prepares to move on with her life.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    When Rose and Antoine realize they love each other but at the same time realize they can't express that love aloud.


    Who was the most memorable character of How It All Began and why?

    I loved Charlotte because, like me, she is older but she is utterly independent and understanding. She knows something is going on with her daughter but is saavy enough not to say anything.


    Any additional comments?

    The narration is a bit fast in that hurried clipped way the Brits have, but once you get used to it, Kellgren's narration is spot on.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. J. Christensen Tucson, AZ. 11-30-12
    M. J. Christensen Tucson, AZ. 11-30-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    25
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    74
    47
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    30
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Lovely Interconnected Stories"

    A humorous, well paced story that flows along well as we see how the characters' lives are changed by the mugging of Charlotte. In some ways, this reminds me a bit of Wodehouse in structure; some of the characters are funny at times, but also very human. A very entertaining read and although I found the narrator's voice harsh at first, I came to really enjoy and appreciate her reading after awhile. I especially like her voicing of Anton. Lively is one of my favorite authors and this is definitely one of her best books.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin 09-23-12
    Robin 09-23-12

    Hi all. I'm in my 50's (that's relevant, i think), and I favor fiction. I like the british sensibility, and was introduced to the Forsyte Saga through audible ... loved it! I happen to also like Chinese writers, but they are not well represented yet at audible. Looking to follow readers with similar tastes ...

    HELPFUL VOTES
    235
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    119
    118
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    20
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "takes some time to adapt to english storytelling"

    overall, i liked this book ... better the second listen, once i'd adapted to english storytelling style. charming, with good characters. the narration, however, could have been much better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eva 09-17-12
    Eva 09-17-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Did not like at all"
    What would have made How It All Began better?

    Didnt like reader or story only finished because I started it


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    None that I could say


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Beth TN, United States 08-21-12
    Beth TN, United States 08-21-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    51
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Real Disappointment"
    Would you try another book from Penelope Lively and/or Katherine Kellgren?

    Possibly... I'd have to read the synopsis and reviews first. (Although that did me no good this time.)


    What could Penelope Lively have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    It was just boring... I don't know, make it more entertaining! Throw a little excitement into it.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    I can honestly say out of all the books I've listened to since joining audible.com in January (it is now almost September) this was the first book I REALLY didn't like the narrator. Having several friends who're British, I usually love the British accent. But this woman's voice got on my nerves from her very first word. It was extremely annoying. But I thought the book would make it worth listening to her. Sadly, I was wrong.


    What character would you cut from How It All Began?

    The guy with whom the old man's niece had the affair. He was just awful... a waste of space. I think the only character I could honestly say I liked was the woman who was the long-lost friend...towards the end of the book. SHE was interesting. The rest could be scrapped. Build a story around her.


    Any additional comments?

    It's very seldom I don't like a book. I can generally plow through it and find something to enjoy. But for me, there was very little to enjoy about this one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victoria Warrenton, VA, United States 08-20-12
    Victoria Warrenton, VA, United States 08-20-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    51
    30
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Perfectly lovely book"

    First the narrator, while taking a bit to get use to, was absolutely fantastic. She nailed the characters, the pace was spot on, and she was able to keep you in step with the emotionally changes in the book. The story itself was surprisingly unexpected. Great story, I began to love the people involved and hope it came out all right for everyone. Highly recommend this gem of a story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.