Friday, April 20, 2012
Book Review: "How It All Began" by Penelope Lively
Charlotte, who has always been fiercely independent, finds herself forced into living with her daughter, Rose, and her husband, Gerry. Rose works for a once-notable historian who is interested in returning to the limelight; Rose's tending to her mother leaves her boss dependent upon his niece, Marion, an interior designer whose relationship with a married man is revealed through an untended text message. At a luncheon with her uncle (which she shouldn't even have been attending), Marion encounters a business partner who seems to be the cure for her financial woes. Meanwhile, Charlotte, an adult literacy tutor before her accident, brings a student, the Eastern European emigré Anton, into Rose's home, which causes further ripples.
I really loved this book. I found it charming, thought-provoking, heart-warming, and even a little life-affirming, as Penelope Lively spins her characters into orbits that intersect briefly and then rotate away again. None of the connections seem too pat; many of the characters have their foibles, but that is what makes them so appealing. At times, I felt the book moved a little slowly, but I kept finding myself drawn into the story by Lively's remarkable ability to keep the different threads of the plot moving without causing the reader any confusion or doubt. It really does prove how quickly life can change as the result of an incident we don't even know about. This was a little jewel of a book.