Customer Reviews for

How It All Began

Average Rating 3.5
( 31 )
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5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(13)

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(5)

2 Star

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(3)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

The Butterfly Effect

I thoroughly enjoyed this sweet book, as I have everything else Penelope Lively has written. This is not the first time she has explored the relationships between coincidence and personal history. I'm glad she sort of wrapped things up at the end, although I wonder how ...
I thoroughly enjoyed this sweet book, as I have everything else Penelope Lively has written. This is not the first time she has explored the relationships between coincidence and personal history. I'm glad she sort of wrapped things up at the end, although I wonder how many other readers besides me were waiting for a first meeting between Charlotte and Henry. --catwak

posted by catwak on April 28, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

This book had a very British flair and style of writing. I have

This book had a very British flair and style of writing. I have decided
that I am not a fan of this style. The premise of the story is great but
the story moves rather slowly jumping from character to character. None
of the characters are memorable and there is nothing ...
This book had a very British flair and style of writing. I have decided
that I am not a fan of this style. The premise of the story is great but
the story moves rather slowly jumping from character to character. None
of the characters are memorable and there is nothing deep, provocative,
or profound about this story. If you have to choose between this and
something else, choose the other book!

posted by PamT2u on August 19, 2012

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  • Posted August 19, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This book had a very British flair and style of writing. I have

    This book had a very British flair and style of writing. I have decided
    that I am not a fan of this style. The premise of the story is great but
    the story moves rather slowly jumping from character to character. None
    of the characters are memorable and there is nothing deep, provocative,
    or profound about this story. If you have to choose between this and
    something else, choose the other book!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2012

    The Butterfly Effect

    I thoroughly enjoyed this sweet book, as I have everything else Penelope Lively has written. This is not the first time she has explored the relationships between coincidence and personal history. I'm glad she sort of wrapped things up at the end, although I wonder how many other readers besides me were waiting for a first meeting between Charlotte and Henry. --catwak

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    A deft, nuanced story about circumstance, memory, relationships, aging.Highly recommended.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 5, 2012

    A good solid read

    A fair amount of life experiences are necessary for full enjoyment of this well written novel.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2012

    A thought-provoking, British read

    I enjoy thinking about the cause and effect of things and how if one bad event had not happened in my life, I would not have gotten to experience all the good that resulted from it. This book is an interesting and cerebral journey down the various "effect" paths that were all "caused" by a woman being mugged. It is not very fast paced and it doesn't quite wrap the ending up with a bow, so if that bothers you, you may want to skip this one. I found it very enjoyable and very realistic. I love me some good, British fiction!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Oh, I dearly loved this book about an event which spawned a se



    Oh, I dearly loved this book about an event which spawned a series of follow-on events, some of which could be termed momentous, in the context of a life. The story was funny and true and ridiculous and painful and all those things that life can be. It was comforting to hear about folks whose lives had hit a major speed bump but who managed, by shuffling the deck, to usher in a new chapter in their lives, one that they liked even better. But it is lightly told, and not so painful for us, safely behind our reading glasses, sipping tea and considering just how awful divorce could be…for the characters of course.

    I was also struck by parallels between the theme in this book by Lively and Kate Atkinson’s new offering Life After Life . It is almost as though the grande Dames of British Literature were given a writing assignment to mull over the possibility that Hitler had never been born or had died in early life, before the tragedy of World War II. The assignment might have specified that they didn’t have to focus on the 1940’s, they just had to mention Hitler and make their story relevant to a new reality. Consider Lively’s contribution, that she places in the mouth of Henry, retired University professor and a man sure of his talent to make history interesting and relevant:
    I myself have a soft spot for what is known as the Cleopatra’s nose theory of history—the proposal that had the nose of Cleopatra been an inch longer the fortunes of Rome would have been different. A reductio ad absurdam, perhaps, but a reference to random causality that makes a lot of sense when we think about the erratic sequence of events that we call history. And we find that we home in on the catalysts—the intervention of those seminal figures who will direct events. Caesar himself. Charlemagne. Napoleon. Hitler. If this man or that—no, this person or that—had not existed, how differently could things have turned out? Focus upon a smaller canvas—England in the eighteenth century, of, indeed, any other century—and we find again that it is personalities that direct events, the human hand that steers the course of time…A decision is made in one place, and far away a thousand will die.”
    Then, consider Kate Atkinson’s contemplation of this question, whom she gives to Ursula, her protagonist :
    “Don’t you wonder sometimes, “ Ursula said. “If just one small thing had been changed, in the past, I mean. If Hitler had died at birth, or if someone had kidnapped him as a baby and brought him up in—I don’t know, say a Quaker household—surely things would be different.”

    And it is a great theme to be going along with: eliminating those pesky outsized actors from our history. After all, isn’t life complicated enough with just our own mistakes to manage?

    In any case, the thing that really caught my attention in this book, and that I loved above even the story (something which Lively spends some time considering—how a story can draw us in) is the discussion an older woman, a retired teacher of literature as it happens, has with a younger economic migrant to whom she is teaching the fundamentals of reading. They speak of language, words, and the passion the younger man has for stories. He’d had trouble learning English, both spoken and written, but he was passionate about stories. So she teaches him, rather than the language of commerce, the language of poetry. She gave him stories, and his passion for stories developed into a passion for words, which he collected assiduously and used ardently. He loved, and was loved though words. It was delightful.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The book is enjoyable. It starts with the premise that one act c

    The book is enjoyable. It starts with the premise that one act can impact many others. And so it does, to our endearment. The author tells the tale smoothly and with humor, yet it does lag for a brief spell. Perhaps there are too many characters. Mark, for one, could easily have been dispensed with. Or the relationship between him and the Lord could have taken the course it seemed bound to follow- the bedroom. But I am not an author, so I can make suggestions like that without having to worry about the consequences.
    I did like the book, and one can argue whether I have a fair amount of life experiences!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    How It All Began by Penelope is a thought provoking fictional ac

    How It All Began by Penelope is a thought provoking fictional account of how the

    lives of multiple people can be impacted by a random accident. It reminds me of widening ripples after a pebble has been thrown in a pond.



    Charlotte Rainsford is walking down a street in London, when she is mugged by a teenager. She falls and breaks her hip, and her life is understandably altered due to her injury. She cannot live alone while her hip is mending and mobility is severely limited. The reader also finds that the mugging incident triggers actions that lead to a marriage on the brink of divorce, the possible bankruptcy of an interior decorator’s business, the less than stellar performance at a lecture of a well-known historian, and how an immigrant's attempt to improve his life in the UK impacts the course of a twenty year marriage.



    My Thoughts



    "How It All Began" is the perfect book to read while curled up in your favorite chair with an afghan and a hot chocolate. The reader will want to time with this book to allow full immersion in the story. The characters are ordinary people living ordinary lives. A random incident changes all their lives and the reader is compelled to keep reading to find out how the story unfolds. Will the couple on the brink of divorce end or mend their marriage? Will the interior decorator be able to save her business or will she have to change career direction? Will the historian be able to restore his reputation in the academic world or will he fade into obscurity with a blemish on his record? Penelope Lively answers these questions in such a way that reader has additional questions. Ms. Lively leaves her readers wanting more, an excellent achievement for any writer.



    By Celeste Thomas

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Although simple and uncomplicated, a sweet little English read.

    Although simple and uncomplicated, a sweet little English read. Good story. Great beach read!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2013

    The first Penelope Lively book I've read. It was a book group c

    The first Penelope Lively book I've read. It was a book group choice but one that I thoroughtly enjoyed.

    It has the gentle quality that I associate with many of the boks written about life in England.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2012

    Great Book!

    I really enjoyed this book.

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