Wednesday 30 May 2012

How It All Began, by Penelope Lively, reviewed by Pippa Goodhart

This books makes a delightfully refreshing read.

Product Details‘How It All Began’ depicts upheavals of very individual and personal sorts, in a contemporary world that this particular middle class English reader recognises with great amusement.  This book cleverly, lightly, conveys the stories of half a dozen or so interesting and flawed characters whose life changes are set in motion by the random mugging of an elderly lady.

            That elderly lady, Charlotte, is, I imagine, rather like Penelope Lively herself.  She’s a bookish independent lady, frustrated by being rendered temporarily helpless.  But it is the people around her whose stories tangle and untangle more than her own does as a result of her injury.  There’s Rose, the dutiful daughter who surprises herself by discovering an (impossible) love.  There’s Rose’s enjoyably pompous old academic employer, and his interior designer niece, who is the temporary mistress of dreadful Jeremy, who is married to neurotic Stella, who is advised by her bully of a sister Gill.  And then there is Anton with the wonderful eyes….  We are given all of these people’s viewpoints, juggled with such dexterity that there is never any doubt whose viewpoint we are experiencing, and no feeling of being wrenched from something that we don’t want to leave just then. 

This is storytelling with such a lightness of touch that one is hardly aware of how it is done, and that, I think, is a mark of brilliance. 




Penny Dolan said...

Nice choice, Pippa. This novel sounds a good and interesting title for a grown-up reading/book group.

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