How It All Began

How It All Began

Book - 2012
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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.

Publisher: New York : Viking, 2012, c2011.
ISBN: 9780670023448
Characteristics: 229 p. ;,24 cm.


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Jun 25, 2017

Wonderful writing, hilarious snarky british humor.

May 23, 2017

Penelope Lively's beautifully written novel is a refreshing discovery.
Her 'six degrees of separation 'story is adroitly and wisely told.
Couldn't put it down.

Jan 10, 2016

This an enjoyable story about how many lives are changed by one small incident. The look into family life and the drama that goes with it is well written and believable. I will read other books by this author.

Jul 28, 2014

An excellent read. Interesting way of illustrating how a seemingly random event can alter the courses of different people's lives, without any of them being aware of the thing that changed their life's course. The idea of if a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, a tornado is spawned in Alberta.... or something like that! Anyway, great writer and I'll be requesting her others.

Jan 08, 2014

Beautiful prose. Unforgettable characters. Exquisite.

ChristchurchLib Mar 18, 2013

The often-unseen connections between people are the focus of this "delectably tart and agile novel" (Booklist), which starts with the mugging of a retired schoolteacher on a London street. Charlotte, left without her handbag, is also left with a broken hip, which leads to unexpected repercussions for her friends and family (and even strangers) when their behaviour changes to accommodate her care. An illicit love affair is inadvertently revealed, a newly fluent immigrant is free to reinvent his life, and Charlotte herself is changed. Whatever you call it - interdependency, the chaos theory, the butterfly effect - author Penelope Lively insightfully illustrates how one small change can affect multitudes. For a similar theme, try Penny Vincenzi's The Best of Times.

Fiction A to Z newsletter March 2013.

BPLNextBestAdults Jan 17, 2013

Charlotte Rainsford, is a retired schoolteacher who is randomly mugged on a London street. This novel by award winning English author, Penelope Lively, explores the powerful role of chance in people’s lives. Lively explores how our paths can be altered forever by someone we will never meet. Charlotte’s misfortune brings together a real assortment of characters with their own life stories. Henry is an old guard historian trying to stay relevant with a TV miniseries, Anton is a middle-aged central European immigrant learning to speak English and reinvent his life, and antiques dealer Jeremy, can’t decide between his needy wife Stella or a fling with the independent Marion. And finally, Charlotte’s daughter Rose, while caring for her mother, reaches a tipping point in her marriage. This is a work of fiction that expertly examines the workings of human nature. I highly recommend you read How it All Began.

Mar 25, 2012

Like the story in the book, it was an interesting accident that put this book in my hands. Now I know I have discovered a new author and plan to read other titles. Highly recommended, a good read

Mar 17, 2012

Much Brit speak infuses this very enjoyable language-centric tale of an ensemble of criss-crossed lives in contemporary England. I don’t think you have to be an Anglophile to like Lively, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

Mar 07, 2012

How It All Began starts with Charlotte getting knocked down in a purse snatching, breaks her hip and adjusts her life for awhile. We move on to other lives and other characters, all of whom get a little surprise in their lives. Every story has a connection to the other.

I felt bereft when I finished. I didn?t want to step out of their lives just yet. Such good writing.

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