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How It All Began
by Lively, Penelope
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1. How It All Began is a book about reading and writing. What does reading give to Lively’s more literate characters? What does the absence of reading deny to the others?

2. What are the differences in the ways in which Charlotte and Lord Henry confront old age? Which approach should be admired more?

3. What characteristics does Lively seem to most admire in a woman?

4. What traits does Lively evidently most despise in a man?

5. Does Rose make the right choice between Gary and Anton? Why?

6. What did you think about the contrast between the two marriages in crisis? Is one marriage more precarious than the other?

7. Given the randomness of events in the world that Lively describes, where seemingly wicked events can produce unforeseen happy results, how is it possible to distinguish good from evil?

8. The book is acutely conscious of the European debt crisis. However, the novel’s embattled characters tend to have either marketable skills, or salable property that they can eventually fall back on. How might How It All Began have been different if Lively had chosen to make her characters’ circumstances more dire?

9. What does How It All Began suggest about the effect of television on the intellectual culture of Britain? Does Lord Henry deserve more of a soap box than electronic media are prepared to give him?

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