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How It All Began | [Penelope Lively]

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.
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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 (254 )
5 star
 (59)
4 star
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3.7 (210 )
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3.9 (208 )
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Performance
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  •  
    L. Wilson NJ, USA 08-05-12
    L. Wilson NJ, USA 08-05-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    10
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    Story
    "Great story, superb narration"

    I loved this book!!! It could be that I listened to it on a great audio recording, but I believe it to be much more than that. Fluid, insightful writing, a well-integrated storyline, and the examination of the meaning of story and fiction are close to my heart. A storyline about a random act that has repercussions across several lives could be predictable, but this felt fresh to the very last sentence. I did find that this theme was mentioned explicitly by several characters over time, and normally that might annoy me. But here, it worked. It all did.

    Have already urged others to pick this up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tina Novato, CA, United States 08-01-12
    Tina Novato, CA, United States 08-01-12 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    768
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    "Light British fare"

    Light and easy reading, a thoughtful book about intersecting lives in London, with a bit of romance, a bit of humor, and some likable characters.

    Warning: the narrator is a bit loud and shrill.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 07-30-12
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 07-30-12 Member Since 2010

    Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Mundane chaos"

    The apparent premise of this story was how chaos theory could apply to ordinary lives based on a single event - the mugging of an elderly lady by an unknown (and throughout the story anonymous) assailant. We meet a fairly common cast of middle class characters whose lives are altered to some degree by this event, but the changes are pretty mundane. I was hoping to see something of real interest happen, but was disappointed. Jobs and relationships experienced various stresses, but I I got tired of the self centeredness of all but one of the characters. The one character who earned my sympathy was Anton, the Eastern European immigrant struggling to learn English in order to apply for meaningful work. The reactions and thoughts of the other characters were predictable and usually annoyingly selfish. I found my thoughts frequently drifting off in the middle of converstions in which the participants were also allowing their thoughts to drift from each other - life immitating art. The author states in the final chapter that "endings are an arbitrary device" because of course the characters' lives presumably continue onward beyond the pages of the book. In spite of that thought, all is resolved in very tidy (and predictable) fashion.

    The reading by Katherine Kellgren was enthusiastic, energetic, and successfully differentiated the characters. It probably helped to keep some interest going in the story that I would not have been able to muster if I had read it in print.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hilary A Harston North Andover, MA United States 07-23-12
    Hilary A Harston North Andover, MA United States 07-23-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    4
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    Story
    "Easy listeneing"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes - I already recommended it as an interesting "slice of life" story.


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

    The parakeet's on Hampstead Heath - being described as "immigrants, like me" by the reading student.


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

    I can't imagine having that much time!


    Any additional comments?

    Not deep and meaningful, but intriguing and very pleasant.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary 07-21-12
    Mary 07-21-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    51
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    Story
    "A story that evokes smiles"

    A tale of the light side of life. Quirky, funny, all too human. Nice listen when you don't want to think too much.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Holly Helscher Cincinnati 05-19-12
    Holly Helscher Cincinnati 05-19-12 Member Since 2012

    Holly

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    99
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    7
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    Story
    "A Lively Tale by Lively"

    This is a contemporary, fantastically humorous look at the philosophy of the butterfly effect. Can the flapping of a butterfly's wings cause a tornado after all? Charlotte Rainsford, a retired schoolteacher, is the butterfly. The butterfly is mugged. From there begins a cascade of events joining people, places and outcomes that without the mugging may never have happened. The reader can't help but laugh at some of the situations the characters find themselves in. But what is more funny is their reactions to these same events.

    It's a delightful, easy to read novel well read by Kellgren. It doesn't require notecards to keep track of complex intricacies within the subplots. They're easy to follow and understand. And most of us can recognize ourselves and laugh at what comes next.

    I highly recommend adding this book to your library. Well done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nanny 06-04-12
    Nanny 06-04-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Entertaining listen"

    This is a light, likeable, well read story. A random action and the effects throughout related lives.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nomi 05-28-12
    Nomi 05-28-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "pleasant read"

    It's a sweet read with a standard theme: Our lives happen in accorance with chaos theory.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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