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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.

Critic Reviews

“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 Ratings

Overall

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Wonderful and beautifully written

This was such a great surprise. I loved all the characters to the point of missing them when the novel was over and the story is compelling. I wouldn't miss this one if you want to have a good literary romp.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • John S.
  • Seattle, WA United States
  • 05-17-13

Wanted to like it more than I did

I had thought that this would be one of those six-degrees-of-separation deals, where the effects of the mugging ripple directly outward. Instead, it felt more as though the affected were a closed circle, some of whose members I did not care for much. Kellgren's accents were good, especially the mugging victim Charlotte, and Czech immigrant Anton. However, at other times, she spoke in a "plummy" voice which I found a bit irritating. Others' mileage may vary on this one, but my experience was that it filled time, and not much else.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Cristy
  • Washington, DC, United States
  • 01-30-12

highly recommended!

Any additional comments?

This was full of both humor and insight. Wonderful characters, great plot, great fun. The book is rathah British in its outlook but still quite relevant for American listeners and readers. Katherine Kellgren does a fabulous job with all the character voices.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • Bryn Mawr, PA, United States
  • 03-11-12

Wonderful novel, beautifully read

Where does How It All Began rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is one of the most enjoyable books I have listened too this year.

What did you like best about this story?

The characters are fascinating, and the novel combines both an interesting story that captifates the attention with some fascinating reflections on age, love, memory, the changing times, and family relationships.

Which character – as performed by Katherine Kellgren – was your favorite?

All of the characters are well drawn, but the immigrant accountant is particularly well done, one can hear his English improve through the novel.

Any additional comments?

This is a book, in other words, that is easy to listen to and that grabs you from the first minutes, and yet has some real depth that sticks with you. First rate.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

A wonderful cast of characters

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. The storyline and charcaters are complex yet familiar

Have you listened to any of Katherine Kellgren’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Not heard Katherine Kellgren before, but she gives life to the multiple characters.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Delightful listen!

Any additional comments?

Funny, sweet, excellent performance by Katherine Kellgren. Overall very enjoyable, relaxing and absorbing. Loved multiple story lines. Highly recommended.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Tina
  • Novato, CA, United States
  • 08-01-12

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Clever and charming, never boring!

This book is based on the premise that a chance accident or other blow from the Universe (in this case, a mugging) has ripples that flow outward from the incident in an every-widening circle. It's an interesting idea, well presented in the form of a story with a wide cast of characters. I enjoyed the deft way this accomplished British author wove the overlapping stories into this narrative. ENJOY!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Butler
  • Rancho Santa Fe, CA, United States
  • 05-07-12

didn't finish because I couldn't stand the reader

I think I will read the book. I loved the story, wanted to finish it, but just could not take the reader. Every line sounded like a newscast or an announcement

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Superbly crafted.

I just gulped this book-- the writing was marvelous, the reader superb. The concept was developed with skill and humor. I lose traction on books fairly easily and often find popular writing to be contrived and inane but this book was everything one could hope-- except perhaps too short. I am going to go back and listen to all of the Penelope Lively titles that are available through Audible (and hope they add additional ones!)

2 of 2 people found this review helpful