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Something Beginning With
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 30 July 2006
This book's a bit like the tardis; it looks like an innocent, light read from the outside, but inside it's packed with mind-expanding ideas and quirky features. The voice is really engaging and the structure clever and daring. While it's possible to read 'Something beginnning With' in one sitting, the themes and questions Sarah Salway raises stay with you for a long time afterwards.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 November 2010
When I first read this book I had no idea what it was - even now, I struggle to explain it to others. It's a list book, but written before the list book genre took hold of publishing, it's a romance, but of a dark and elegantly twisted type, it's a buddy book, but the buddies are an easily-influenced and slightly eccentric woman and her worldly-wise, confident best friend, it's a story about relationships and also about the gap between the outside world and the interior life and how each individual fills that gap with myths, illusions, doubts and peculiarities.

Written in alphabetical format, it's actually an episodic narrative: you can't read it at random and get the best out of it, but you can re-read previous entries to be blown away by the clever foreshadowing of what's to come.

It's a book where every word counts: although you read it as if it's the frothiest of fun, there are dark currents under that surface that catch you before you realise it. You can read it at a sitting and re-read it every year without it feeling too familiar.

For me the entries are like commuting on a train - each one is a glimpse in a lit window, a snapshot of a life and as each day's journey takes you past the same window, you build those snapshots into a deck of pictures you can fan, like a flicker book, to allow you to see the story 'move' and become animated in front of your eyes. Oddly, the more static the entry (like 'yellow') the more animation it adds to the narrative.

It's also a lovely book, warm and clever without ever being pretentious or self-aware, but to understand its fascination you have to read it, because this is one book where the synopsis just can't to justice to the narrative as a whole.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 1 May 2004
I do not often read a book in one sitting but 'Something Beginning with...' demands to be read in one luscious mouthful. It is curiously addictive, and for me the pages turned in rapid succession. Verity, the twenty-something writer of this lexicon, which also has a diary-like feel, is an entertaining narrator who is well-practised in self-delusion. The problems she encounters are solved with originality and verve and her astute observations of life around her are sometimes amusing and sometimes very poignant. As well as relating a highly satisfying tale Verity (or rather Sarah Salway) also manages to incorporate some surprising and interesting facts e.g. how Japanese mothers terminate breastfeeding (see w: withdrawal). This is a lively contemporary story of the meaning of love and loss and I look forward to reading more from this writer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 May 2004
This is one of the finest books I have read in a while; I loved it. It is miles ahead of all other chick lit out there, because apart from being entertaining, funny and utterly engaging, this novel is also insightful, touching, and beautifully written. Written in alphabetical glossary entires, each short section tells its own story, and the vignettes add up to a lovely book that is as smart as it is sweet. I would highly recommend this one to anyone, not just "chicks". There is really nothing out there quite like it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2004
This is one of the finest books I have read in a while; I loved it. It is miles ahead of all other chick lit out there, because apart from being entertaining, funny and utterly engaging, this novel is also insightful, touching, and beautifully written. Written in alphabetical glossary entries, each short section tells its own story, and the vignettes add up to a lovely book that is as smart as it is sweet. I would highly recommend this one to anyone, not just "chicks". There is really nothing out there quite like it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This book was published in the US as The ABCs of Love. Whatever the name, it's not an easy book to describe. It's written in an almost diary format, but the entries are alphabetically arranged. So, we have a few thoughts on Ambition, Ants and Attitude, before moving on to Baked Beans, Best Friends.. etc. In this way, Verity tells her story. It sounds odd, but it works.

We find out a little about her past, her feelings about her best friend's affair with a married man, then also Verity's own love affair, also with a married man.

On the surface, this appears to be your usual `chick lit' type book, just told in an unusual way. However, Sarah's skill is the way she writes her narrator.. she has captured a rather naive, easily-lead young girl, along with all her thoughts and feelings. It can be read as a rather straight-forward little tale, or if you look for it, you will find a lot more told between the lines. It's a book that will make you smile, then make you think.
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At first glance you might write this book off as chicklit with a gimmick - for it is written in an A to Z format with entries under key words and phrases. The longest entries are no more than a couple of pages, and they're all cross-referenced with an index at the back too. This may seem to imply that the novel could be read in any order by jumping back and forward following the references, however you would miss the layers of nuance and subtlety building up - and a real sense of anticipation that things are going to happen.

Twentysomething Verity works as a secretary in a magazine publishing company and she really enjoys her job. Her parents are dead, and she modestly lives alone in a flat, although as an heiress she could afford better. She's known her best friend Sally since school, and she worries about her. Sally has become the mistress of a married millionaire - surely it can't work. Then as Sally's relationship deteriorates, Verity too falls for a married man.

These relationships are the meat of this novel, but in between them are Verity's musings on life, the universe and everything. She is delightfully naive and quietly eccentric. Within the first few alphabetical vignettes you warm to her completely.

This engaging novel can be read in one session. It was Salway's debut and is totally delightful, it is both frothy and darkly witty, and occasionally sad. It also has many good things to say about friendship, relationships and standing up for oneself. Pure chicklit it most definitely is not - and this is a very good thing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 December 2010
In its new format, Something Beginning With makes even the most tedious journey entertaining. I loved the book as a hardback (indeed, it was a Book Club choice) and am thrilled with the Kindle edition. Although there is a story line running through the book, I find myself enjoying dipping in and out of my favourite sections which never fail to make me smile and laugh.
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on 20 November 2013
At first look this book seemed like a pleasant, light hearted selection of musings, albeit from an amusing and interesting mind. I liked it immediately and thought it would be good to read a few every so often - and it does lend itself to that kind of reading. However, as I read on I found myself in Chocolate Digestive Mode. You know when you eat one or two you just can't stop until you've finished the packet? By my second or third reading session I had realised that there was much more to this book than a diary of casual daily thoughts. I started to see the links. They gradually appear you see. Very subtle and very enticing. Before I knew it I was hooked - desperate to know what Verity was going to do next. I began to perceive things that might be heading her way, but which she herself hadn't noticed. It takes a very skilful writer to do this successfully and to keep it all credible. A real treat. Thank you Sarah.
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This is an interesting concept for a book, and I enjoyed reading it very much. The story is told by Verity Bell, a 24 year old who seems at odds with her own life at times. The interesting part is that it's done alphabetically, and each letter has a variety of different entries. Verity has lost both her parents, but still has her best friend Sally, although Sally is having an affair with a married man. Verity experiences her own relationship issues, and you start to realise that she's an insecure person. At times I thought she was pretty unlikeable in fact, but there were times when I did feel sorry for her.

Sarah Salway has written a clever, quirky and amusing novel. I recommend it, and it's a quick and easy read.
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