Dusted Off: How It All Began by Penelope Lively

How It All BeganHow It All Began by Penelope Lively
Hardcover, 240 pg.
Viking Adult, 2012
Read: May 2-3, 2012

Humbug. What a poorly-written, pretentious little thought-experiment disguised as a novel. In case you haven’t been beaten over the head with it in books, TV and film there’s this thing called Chaos Theory–usually explained by the Butterfly Effect; Lively starts off with one event and then examines how the butterfly of an elderly woman’s mugging effects the lives of 20 or so others.

As far as that goes…a decent setup. But we have to keep revisiting the conceit, every few chapters we have to have a recap that all of the things going on are because of this mugging. Over and over again. And about halfway through (minor spoiler), we get this big lecture about Chaos Theory. Juuuust in case we haven’t got it yet.

When she’s not browbeating us with that, Lively tells some okay stories. With the stress on “tells”, rarely, if ever, showing.

The best thing I can say is that at least Lively doesn’t interrupt really appealing characters in the middle of fun, compelling stories with this application of Chaos Theory.


1 Star


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