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How It All Began
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October 2020: Other Books > [Poll Ballot] How It All Began by Penelope Lively - 4.5 stars

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Joy D | 4044 comments How It All Began by Penelope Lively - 4 stars - My Review

Charlotte, an intensely independent seventy-something widow, is mugged on the street, breaking her hip, and must live with her daughter, Rose, while she recovers. This book is a humorous and poignant character study of seven lives impacted by this single event. It is chaos theory in novel form, or a sequence of unintended consequences. The author employs an understated plot and well-developed characters. She brings the intertwined storylines together in a satisfying ending.

The characters are the highlight. In addition to Charlotte and Rose, we have:
- Lord Peters an aging historian with a rather pompous attitude that adds to the amusement
- Lord Peters’ niece, Marion, an interior designer having an affair with a married man
- Jeremy, the married man, and his wife, Ruth, whom he hopes to keep from divorcing him
- Anton, Charlotte’s student, an eastern European immigrant learning English to get a better job

Supporting characters augment the humor, such as the young academic who plays up to Lord Peters’ ego to further his own career. Each has a distinctive personality. I felt like I knew them personally by the end of the book. I am impressed by the author’s skill in deftly designing their interplay. This is the first book I have read by Penelope Lively. I enjoyed it tremendously and will be reading more of her works.


Robin P | 1921 comments I liked this book a lot too. In fact I have read multiple books by her and liked them all.

Joy D | 4044 comments I will definitely be reading more.

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