A vibrant new novel from Penelope Lively—a wry, wise story about the surprising ways lives intersect
Look out for Penelope Lively’s new book, The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories.
When Charlotte Rainsford, a retired schoolteacher, is accosted by a petty thief on a London street, the consequences ripple across the lives of acquaintances and strangers alike. A marriage unravels after an illicit love affair is revealed through an errant cell phone message; a posh yet financially strapped interior designer meets a business partner who might prove too good to be true; an old-guard historian tries to recapture his youthful vigor with an ill-conceived idea for a TV miniseries; and a middle-aged central European immigrant learns to speak English and reinvents his life with the assistance of some new friends.
Through a richly conceived and colorful cast of characters, Penelope Lively explores the powerful role of chance in people's lives and deftly illustrates how our paths can be altered irrevocably by someone we will never even meet. Brought to life in her hallmark graceful prose and full of keen insights into human nature, How It All Began is an engaging, contemporary tale that is sure to strike a chord with her legion of loyal fans as well as new readers. A writer of rare wisdom, elegance, and humor, Lively is a consummate storyteller whose gifts are on full display in this masterful work.
Charlotte, who is in her 70s, is mugged, leaving her injured and without her handbag. This delightful, absorbing novel relies on a sophisticated and skillfully realized structure to introduce and then follow its endearingly ordinary characters. Though Charlotte's incident proves to be the first domino to fall, she herself recedes into the background as her daughter, her middle-aged ESL student, her boss, and her boss's niece come to the fore, going about the business of their daily lives and loves, all on a somewhat different path than they would have, had not Charlotte broken her hip. The interdependency of the characters' lives, which they remain largely unaware of, builds intriguing momentum, and the pace quickens as the novel develops. Throughout, prolific Booker Prize winning author Lively (for Moon Tiger) illustrates her knack for charming familiarity and just the right dash of surprise.
Customer ReviewsSee All
How it all began
Fair book. A bit hard to follow from the constant switching of narrator. Story line was good but it was difficult to connect with any individual character.
How It All Began
The version of this novel that I downloaded to iPad is the reason I will never surrender completely to the e-book. The text is interrupted with squares and periods leaving one to wonder what is missing. EXTREMELY ANNOYING. At a bookstore I would get a refund for this mess. I hate to rate a book based on the faults of electronic publishing but, after all, presentation is part of the artwork.