Thursday, August 30, 2012

How It All Began

I really enjoyed this book. I had read another book by Penelope Lively this year that was a little harder to get into (Moon Tiger)  but I was pleasantly surprised by this charming novel, her most recent book. It begins when a seventy-ish woman, Charlotte, is mugged on a London street by a teenager, and falls and breaks her hip. The consequences of her fall, and how one unexpected event can affect a whole cast of characters (including the mugger),  is the heart of the novel.

It is decided that Charlotte must recover at the home of her daughter Rose and husband Gerry. Rose works for an elderly historian named Henry, who they call His Lordship. His Lordship has a daughter named Marion, who is involved with a married man named Jeremy (married to Stella). And Charlotte, who is bored to death at Charlotte's house, decides to help an immigrant, Anton, learn English. One thing leads to another and we see how all these lives are changed by the one event. And I especially liked all the literature references, as Charlotte is a voracious reader, and shares her love of books and reading with Anton, helping him to learn English through reading him stories.

I really like the way Lively writes, which is easy and eloquent, and very readable. Her characters are believable, and I particularly liked Charlotte, who is struggling with the aches and pains of old age and the loss of her independence, and who finds comfort and solace in her books. I especially liked this passage:

"Her life has been informed by reading.   She has read not just for distraction, sustenance, to pass the time, but she has read in a state of primal innocence, reading for enlightenment, for instruction even.  She has read to find out if things are the same for others as they are for her – then, discovering that frequently they are not, she has read to find out what it is that other people experience that she is missing.”

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