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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
98
4.2 out of 5 stars
How It All Began
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on 12 June 2017
This is a very readable and enjoyable book, and the characterisation is lovely. But it is quite 'middle England' in a sense, full of well heeled people and their problems. I liked the elderly main character, and the Polish man; one or two of the others were a bit one-dimensional. I would recommend it as a holiday read, but with predictable endings.
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on 26 March 2017
The characters are brought to life so well and the story is such a good one . I've recommended it to my friends and they also have found it very enjoyable. In its own way it is a 'page turner'. It's also well written, but that's only to be expected from Penelope Lively. This has to be one of my favourite good reads.
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on 28 November 2015
A wonderful story, by a well appreciated author.
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on 4 June 2014
Really enjoyed this book. It's a quick, light read but kept me turning the pages from start to finish. Good summer holiday read.
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on 11 April 2017
Penelope Lively, I have never been disappointed
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on 20 June 2017
Brilliant
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on 22 August 2017
Good as ever
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on 7 December 2012
Did not really care about any of the characters except Anton and Charlotte. Most of the rest were just 2D caricatures.
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on 12 October 2015
Having read this enjoyable story I recommended it to the Book Club I attend at our local Library in Carterton. For some members it lacked a certain excitment but most appreciated the gentle characterisation of the people in it. I was pleased that it got an over all average of 7 out of 10 from the group. I myself thought many people were portrayed so well especially the elderly woman herself who was very keen to return to her home and independence. The scholarly gentleman with all his foibles plus his pomposity was quite amusing and I'm sure we have all met someone like that in our lives! The migrant worker was to be admired too as he worked so hard, as many do in real life, to improve his standard of living and use the skills he had acquired. I expect we could all contribute to How it All Began in our own lives but Penelope Lively does it so well.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 5 November 2011
The treat begins with the presentation, such a lovely book to own and hold. Realising that the dust jacket designer really knew the book gives a warm and cosy feeling. Each item shown has a sweet significance. The tempting brownies, Spring flowers, piles of books and the welcoming chair, all carefully placed on the attractive `Country Living' style cover, actually echo the story.

And`story' is what it's all about. Well that and the chaos theory, which is generously demonstrated by the falling house of cards effect, set off by retired English teacher Charlotte being mugged and injured. I imagined her as a thinly disguised version of Penelope Lively herself, so tender are the observations and pertinent the touching references to getting older, getting over things and getting on with life anyway. The accommodations required when busily keeping one's personality, relationships and confidence in good shape.

All in all it's a bit Maeve Binchy, in the nicest possible way, as we have several strands to follow, each of which will hopefully come together for the good of the characters. The writing is just delightful; language wonderfully fluent, especially when Charlotte, Rose and Henry are in full flow. PL is the mistress of the apposite phrase and the surprising observation; it is a treat to read such top class prose. I always enjoy her finely tuned ear for natural dialogue, she offers utterly genuine and sparkling conversations. The sometimes telling difference between what is said and what is thought.

`How It all Began' is particularly for us lucky ones who find true joy and companionship in books. Much of the action takes place around literature - there's a fair bit about our inner lives too. Positing that our reading experience changes when things in our lives go awry, showing how it can be can be de-railed and re routed.

A new departure in this, I think, is to mention other books by name, and fun when they are familiar. The feeling that you may well be judged by the book you are holding, while on the tube, or in the waiting room. Showing how important `story' is when learning to read. Charlotte now teaches adults who are new to English; this provides some magic moments.

One to keep and one to give, so a perfect idea for 'lively' minded friends and family, ladies and gentlemen! I am sure it will be well received.
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