When Charlotte is mugged and breaks her hip, her daughter, Rose, cannot accompany her employer, Lord Peters, to Manchester, which means his niece, Marion, has to go instead, which means she sends a text to her lover which is intercepted by his wife, which is…just the beginning of the ensuing chain of life-altering events.
In this engaging, utterly absorbing and brilliantly told novel, Penelope Lively shows us how one random event can cause marriages to fracture and heal themselves, opportunities to appear and disappear, lovers who might never have met to find each other, and entire lives to become irrevocably changed.
©2011 Penelope Lively (P)2012 Isis Publishing Ltd
" Whatever your age, How It All Began is a splendid tonic." (Telegraph)
"A sublime storyteller." (Guardian)
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"It didn't work for me"
This book is about the impossible to anticipate repercussions of a one off event that happens to Charlotte at the start of the book. I liked the idea and so downloaded the book, but I found the characters both unlikeable and unrealistic. The style of writing was jarring as it moved from one story to the next, an effect emphasised by the narrator with a lot of pauses and some truly dreadful accents. I have since wondered if I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if I had actually read it rather than listened to it being read, I think chances are I would have.
If you like a book that fleetingly touches on a number of concurrent tales then this may well be a book for you. If you prefer singular, more detailed accounts then this might not be your cup of tea. That said, it is a very easy listen (awful accents aside) so would probably also suit as a beach holiday book just fine.
"A delightful and insightful listen"
Every woman will relate to the characters Penelope Lively draws so sympathetically in this beautifully written novel. Charlotte, in her 70s, is knocked down by a mugger and has to adjust to a sudden loss of independence. Her daughter Rose, middle-aged, falls in love. Stella has to deal with her errant husband, and Marion with the challenges of running a business as the recession bites. All their lives, and those of the men in them, change as a result of that casual mugging. The author understands so well what makes them all tick, and writes with delicacy and humour. It would be a great read but is an even greater listen because of Anna Bentinck's perfectly nuanced reading. All the characters come alive and she respects every word of the text. I have listened to it twice and found it as enjoyable the second time around. Now off to get every other Penelope Lively and anything else read by Anna Benctinck!
"Multi layered and original!"
So many books on the subject of women's lives and relationships are formulaic. This was a little different. Intelligently written, rich characters and not the usual predictable stuff. The narration was also first class.
"Amusing, enjoyable, lovely structure"
Penelope Lively does a very good job with the 'interconnectedness of all things'. The novel is structured with a lot of balance and movement, from person to person, picking up on their changing fortunes and feelings. The story does have you wondering - will they or won't they? It's a gentle story, told at a good pace, a comedy that strikes a chord with life today, particulalrly I suspect for the over-40s!
The reader, Anna Bentinck, does a lovely, lively job with the large and varied cast, with some neat nuances of accent and tone that really brought them to life for me.
I'd recommend this as a very enjoyable listen, light-hearted and engaging.
"Penelope Lively at her best."
How a single event can trigger a whole chain of other events. This is Penelope Lively at her very best - examining the way peoples' lives are linked together in some sort of web. Excellent portrayal of ageing and memory too. Loved it.
Bentinck narration was perfect for this book. I'm a big fan of Penelope Lively's work and this one did not disappoint. I loved the way she developed the ripple effect of a singly incident and gave the look into the lives and behaviours of a cast of very believable characters.
"How it all began"
A good read with lots of dipping in and out of the lives of all these people who make the story come together. Easy to listen to and flows alone nicely. A good story.
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