How It All Began by Penelope Lively
When I was little, Penelope Lively’s sadly often forgotten children’s novels were some of my favourite reads. Once I had exhausted her children’s books I moved on to enjoy her adult fiction. Last year when I read Charles Butler’s Four British Fantasists – of which Lively was one of the featured author’s – it made me remember how much I had enjoyed her books.
This is one of her latest books and is a fine example of the character study that her books have begun. Beginning with an apparently insignificant if traumatic event that begins the unravelling of the lives of a wide set of characters. One is an elderly historian – history often has a part to play in Penelope Lively’s books. Almost without exception all the male characters in the novel are the most disagreeable and unlikeable bunch who are all out to fulfill their own ends.
The story picks up pace and intrigue in the second half so its definitely worth sticking with to the end, although I did find Lively’s at times overly-omniscient narrator a little awkward and all-knowing a distraction. Also at times the present tense narrative distracted from the story.