Friday, July 13, 2012

But how did it all end?

Book: How It All Began

Author: Penelope Lively

Published: 2011 (Viking)

Pages: 229

In the first couple sentences, an old lady is robbed. In the next three or four chapters, this robbery and her subsequent broken hip shift pre-established events and schedules so that her married daughter falls in love with one of the old lady's reading students, the old lady's employer's niece meets a guy who swindles her out of business, and the niece's lover is outed as an adulterer. 

Promising start! None of the coincidences are contrived, although an unnamed narrative pops up to harp on them three or for times. So then what happened?

Uh, well, you know. Life. Things. 

The employer's sections were the most fun because he was a gone-to-seed academic historian who had no idea of the giant gap between his grand ideas and their banal actualities. The rest of the affected people, most especially his niece, were refreshingly practical about their situations, which got me to like them but did not result in an ending that tied everyone together again. I was half-hoping and half-dreading that kind of ending but figured the rest of the book had enough sense to do it well. 

But I never got to find out, because everybody just drifted apart. In a coda that was completely unnecessary seeing as how we were told he never affected the story ever again, the author tells us that the mugger was shortly robbed himself.  

Well all right then. 

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