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How It All Began: A Novel Hardcover – January 5, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 205 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The ruling vision of master British novelist Lively’s latest delectably tart and agile novel is the Butterfly Effect, which stipulates that “a very small perturbation” can radically alter the course of events. The catalyst here is a London mugging that leaves Charlotte, a passionate reader and former English teacher become adult literacy tutor, with a broken hip. She moves in with her married daughter, Rose, to recuperate. Rose works for Henry, a lord and once-prominent historian, whose ego is as robust as ever but whose mind is faltering as he attempts to launch a BBC documentary to hilarious effect. With Rose out helping her mother, Henry prevails upon his daughter, Marion, an interior designer, to accompany him out of town, where she meets a too-good-to-be-true client. When she texts her lover, who deals in architectural salvage (tangible history), to postpone a rendezvous, his wife intercepts the message. Charlotte begins tutoring Anton, a smart and soulful East European, who affirms her ardor for language and story and awakens Rose out of her smothering stoicism. Throughout this brilliantly choreographed and surreptitiously poignant chain-reaction comedy of chance and change, Lively (Family Album, 2009) shrewdly elucidates the nature of history, the tunnel-visioning of pain and age, and the abiding illumination of reading, which so profoundly nourishes the mind and spirit. --Donna Seaman


“An elegant, witty work of fiction, deceptively simple, emotionally and intellectually penetrating, the kind of novel that brings a plot to satisfying closure but whose questions linger long afterward in the reader’s mind.”
The New York Times Book Review

“The plot of Penelope Lively’s vital new novel is one big snowball. . . . Writing with her usual poise and cutting cinematically from one character’s story to another’s, Ms. Lively elegantly orchestrates these events while using them as a setup for another series of developments.” — Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Moving skillfully between streams-of-consciousness and a wry omniscient voice, Lively investigates her characters’ motives and afterthoughts with precision and tenderness.” — The New Yorker

“With grace, wit and wisdom, Man Booker Prize winner Lively has crafted a highly readable tale about fates intersecting amid the chaos of modern life.” — People

“Lives intersect in unexpected and comical ways in this breezy, engrossing novel.” — Entertainment Weekly

“With How It All Began, Lively has provided a golden passport that will sweep you through the border control of other people’s lives.” — The Washington Post

“Marvelous . . . a spellbinding surprise . . . Every small twist in the road in this superbly well-plotted novel sheds ever-widening concentric rings of consequences.” — The Chicago Tribune

“Another virtuoso performance . . . Lively continues to surprise and illuminate, writing to ever more dazzling effect.” — The Boston Globe

“Lively is a consummate storyteller. . . . The characters in this novel are, each and all, well drawn and fully conceived. . . . Everyone in this elegantly told tale is connected by chance and the power of story.”

The Seattle Times

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st edition (January 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670023442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023448
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (205 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #856,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

on February 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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on March 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
11 comment| 48 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Format: Hardcover
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on January 10, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
11 comment| 52 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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