'You are in the hands of a master' Daily Mail
'Thoughtful, intelligent and light of touch... Lively has the gift, rare and wonderful, of being able to peel back the layers one by one and set them before us, translucent and gleaming.' Sunday Telegraph
A dream house that is hiding something sinister; two women having lunch who share a husband; an old woman doing her weekly supermarket shop with a secret past that no one could guess; a couple who don't know each other at all even after fifteen years together; and, in the story from which this collection takes its name, a bird and a servant girl in ancient Pompeii who cannot converse, but share a perfect understanding.
In this new and varied collection of short stories, Penelope Lively shows that she remains a master of her craft, and one of our finest English writers.
Carefully thought-out stories. . . Patterns of interaction between past and present are sounded out to good effect.
Lively has guts and style. . . You are in the hands of a master
Her new collection of short stories is perfect. It is a very wide range of short stories and each one has an unexpected twist in the tale.
Thoughtful, intelligent and light of touch . . . Lively has the gift, rare and wonderful, of being able to peel back the layers one by one and set them before us, translucent and gleaming.
Spry and world-wise, The Purple Swamp Hen is an enchanting story that sets the tone for the rest of this stellar collection.
More stylish than many writers half her age . . . Lively knows a thing or two about storytelling.
Lively is now nearly 80 but, as How It All Began shows, there is no diminution of her skills . . . Lively is a writer of craft and sagacity and such old fashioned virtues trump the chic but meretricious every time.
Penelope Lively at her best, sharp-eyed but sympathetic, deftly steering the reader from one point of view to another. This novel should delight her regular readers and ensnare new ones.
Lively skilfully mingles past and present, as she peels away the layers to uncover a family secret of which no one speaks...Lively's astute skewering of family relations reverberates in the mind long afterwards.