Deborah Markus's Reviews > How It All Began

How It All Began by Penelope Lively
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's review
Sep 13, 15

bookshelves: british-fiction, coffee-break-for-my-brain, library-find
Read in June, 2012

I went ahead and marked this five stars for "amazing," because it's rare that a contemporary novel is quotable. The main character is an educated British woman in her seventies, recovering from a mugging. First sentence:

The pavement rises up and hits her.

Terrific, right? Here's a bit from when she's ruminating on being in constant pain from the resultant broken hip:

Ah, old age. The twilight years -- that delicate phrase. Twilight my foot -- roaring dawn of a new life, more like, the one you didn't know about. We all avert our eyes, and then -- wham! you're in there too, wondering how the hell this can have happened, and maybe it is an early circle of hell and here come the gleeful devils with their pitchforks, stabbing and prodding.

The range of characters and voices Penelope Lively offers reminds me of George Eliot. Not all of the characters are likeable, but all of them are human, even the rotters. The tender romance that develops between a married woman and an immigrant man who's fluent in several languages but finds himself terrifyingly unable to learn to read in English -- well, I'm never going to forget it and it leaves an ache as deep as if I'd lived one of their lives.

The only thing I found unconvincing was the idea that a woman in her 40s is put off by rock music, thinking of it as something that belongs to her children. Hate to break it to Lively, but those of us in our 40s grew up with rock and roll. Now we're trying to get used to odd little offshoots like Melbourne bounce, which I only heard about last week when my son introduced me to it.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Rj (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rj That quote in your 4th para - so agree. I LOVED the way she put that... the roaring dawn...

message 2: by TL (new)

TL lovely review hun

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