This is my symphony

What I read & what I lived …

How it all began
Penelope Lively

Ever since I turned the last page of Penelope Lively’s Booker Prize winning novel Moon Tiger nearly 25 years ago, I was hooked. Her peek inside modern British culture was a look at a world that probably no longer exists. Lively’s characters are complex–especially her women–and drive the story; I’ve often envisioned the conversations we’d share.  And so The Road to Lichtfield, The Photograph, and Moon Tiger remain some of my favorite reading memories. The author is now eighty and I’d thought she was no longer writing–so imagine my delight when I discovered How it All Began written in 2011.

I loved the concept–one event sets off a series of events ala the butterfly effect–when I read the blurb. The elderly Charlotte Rainsford is mugged and must move in with her daughter and son-in-law after her release from the hospital. The web of characters affected by this event move outward from there: Charlotte’s daughter Rose, Rose’s employer Lord Henry, Henry’s niece Marion and her lover Jeremy, Anton, the eastern European immigrant Charlotte comes to tutor.

The makings of a satisfying read … except it’s not. The characters are not interesting enough to carry a plot and by the end, I simply didn’t care what happened to them. To make matters worse, the last chapter was six pages of disappointing epilogue. How sad that this will be my last impression of Lively’s work.

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