Book Review – How It All Began by Penelope Lively

I picked up this book because I read an intriguing review, which said that it explored chaos theory – the idea that very small events can have enormous consequences.

It does indeed do so, but in a very small scale and human way. The event in question is the mugging of Charlotte, an elderly ex-teacher. She breaks her hip, and has to move in with her daughter Rose whilst she recovers. This causes Rose to miss a trip to Manchester with her employer Henry , who is accompanied instead by his niece Marion. What happens in Manchester has implications for both Henry and Marion, and for their friends, family and acquaintances.

And so it goes on. Like a pebble dropped into a pond, the ripples reach out, and Charlotte’s mishap affects the lives of a whole circle of people she will never know, in ways that she could not imagine.

It’s not a book that is driven by the plot, although there is quite a lot going on. Its strength is in the closely-observed characterisation, and the seemingly mundane detail of everyday life. The central concept of spiralling consequences underpins the story, but it is never laboured. Altogether a very satisfying read for anyone who is fascinated by the secret everyday lives of other people.

Book Review by a Leeds Library Reader

You can reserve How it all Began online and pick it up at your local library.

Book Review – The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

A short novel but is one that it is packed and one that is very easy to read.  It deals the past and how we can often our memories of events can be affected by the passage of time.  Are we remembering events or are we remembering our interpretation of events? 

The book is in two parts.  The first part deals with the narrator, Tony Webster,  his life at school and his friendship with three chums including the very intelligent Adrian Finn.  The four friends discover girls, sex and university and swear to stay friends for ever.  Tony meets the enigmatic Veronica and spends a really awkward weekend with her family.  The relationship fails and Adrian subsequently takes up with Veronica.  Letters are exchanged between Adrian and Tony that will haunt Tony later in the book.  Adrian’s suicide is a shock to all his friends.  Tony drifts away from his school friends and has a fairly dreary and meaningless life.  He marries but divorces but is still on good terms with his ex-wife and has a close relationship with his daughter.

The second part of the book begins with Tony receiving a letter out of the blue from solicitors saying that Veronica’s mother has died but has left him a bequest.  The bequest leads him into contact with Veronica and her brother once again and an eventual re-examination of the events told in part one of the book.

There is a twist at the end of the book that I did not foresee.  Personally I would have preferred more background information about events leading up to the twist.  The characters in the book are excellently portrayed.  There is humour in the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and would heartily recommend it.

A Leeds Libraries borrower

Reserve a copy of Sense of an Ending online and pick it up from your nearest library.

Book Review – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

I’ve just read and really enjoyed “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. Probably not my usual read but it was recommended to me by a friend – it follows Harold as he makes an unexpected journey to see a friend. The journey is the journey of a lifetime and has all sorts of unintended consequences. A gentle but thought provoking read.

Review submitted by Allison Roberts
You can reserve The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry online and collect from your nearest Leeds Library.