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4th January
written by Steph
What is it that they say about the best laid plans? Something about how they never work out? That sounds about right... Despite my intentions to catch up on blogging while Tony and I were up in Canada, I wound up not even bringing my laptop and was hardly online at all. Instead I slept in late every day, played tons of Mario Super Sluggers on the Wii, tried my hand at NHL 2012 on the PS3 (never making it past the rookies), played some non-video game bowling (and finally broke triple digits!) and watched lots and lots of Mantracker (everyone outside of Canada is missing out, because Mantracker is possibly the best reality show ever made). I managed to read the bulk of one book (but not finish it) while we were away, so I was only marginally better at reading than I was at blogging. I feel slightly guilty about this, but mostly I'm just happy I got some time to completely relax and hibernate. I'm still not feeling entirely recharged, but I'm feeling quite a bit calmer than I did before the holidays. Given that I wrote not a single thing while I was away, I still have four books that I read last year that I still need to write about. AND I need to write one of those fun summary posts in which I recap 2011. Already I am behind the times! Before I do any of that, however, I am instead going to direct your attention to the January 2012 issue of BookPage, in which I reviewed Penelope Lively's newest novel, How It All Began. I did actually read this book a few months ago, so while it's a 2012 book for most, it was actually a 2011 book for me. I've only ever read one other Lively novel, Moon Tiger, but she made a wonderful first impression on me and I'd been wanting to read more of her works ever since. Despite being published 25 years after Moon Tiger, How It All Began is still clearly a Penelope Lively novel. It is perhaps less experimental than MT, as it does largely focus on telling a briskly paced story filled with a dynamic cast of characters, but it still has a soupçon of metafiction, which I really love. The thing about Lively's fiction that always seems to resonate with me is that she unabashedly loves stories and actively uses her work as a means of promoting the idea that we as humans are drawn to storytelling and the written word because of the closure and permanence they provide. Anyone who loves books like I do can't help but feel that one has found a kindred spirit in an author who so unabashedly espouses this view in her books. Fellow readers will also get a kick out of the main character, Charlotte, as she herself is an ardent bookworm (and adult literacy teacher) and large swaths of her storyline are devoted to musings on how reading enriches one's life. The novel as a whole is incredibly engrossing and touching, but that thread in particular really spoke to me. Rather than read my inelegant ramblings here, check out my review at BookPage for the full scoop. In the interim, I'll get to work on putting the rest of 2011 to bed!


  1. 01/04/2012

    Happy New Year. Sounds like you had just the kind of holiday that you were meant to have. Sometimes taking a break, even from reading, is a good thing!

  2. You don’t have “Mantracker” in the States? That is a tragic oversight! I’m glad you were able to get your fill of it during your holiday.

    I placed a hold on How It All Began as soon as it appeared in my library’s catalogue and can’t wait to read it. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Lively and I’m sure this will be no exception.

  3. 01/04/2012

    Oh man, I’m a sucker for characters who love to read. And I enjoyed the one Lively I’ve read, so I’m going to have to track this puppy down.

  4. I’m also a fan of metafiction and was playing with the idea of making a post about my favorites.

    PS: Mantracker?! *Googling*

  5. 01/05/2012

    Can you believe I still haven’t read anything by Lively? However I did get a copy of one of her books in a book swap so maybe this year:)

    Sounds like you had a proper holiday, getting away from it all. We all need one, right? I’m going on mine in under 2 weeks and cannot wait, although I will of course be taking a suitcase full of books…

  6. 01/06/2012

    @ Kathleen: I was definitely a couch potato during the holidays, which I know is unfathomable to some people, but it really was exactly what I needed! The end of 2011 really took the wind out of my sails.
    @ Claire: No one is more surprised than I that Mantracker has not seemed to crossed the border to the States. I really think it would be a huge hit here (because really, how could it not?!?)!
    @ softdrink: Yes, any book that features a reader automatically makes me feel right at home and puts a smile on my face! If you’ve enjoyed Lively in the past, I’m sure you’ll enjoy her presently as well!
    @ Alex: I would love to see a list of your metafiction favorites, as I’m always on the lookout for new titles. Please write that post!
    (Also, if you can find any episodes of Mantracker, you must watch! It’s sooooooo good!)
    @ sakura: I won’t judge you too harshly for not having read any Lively, since even though she’s so good I find that she isn’t as widely read as she ought to be AND I also only first read her 2 years ago, so I can’t claim a longstanding love affair.
    And just because I didn’t read much doesn’t mean I didn’t intend to read tons! I still smuggled 5 books home for the holidays!
    @ zibilee: I’m glad to hear more people other than myself were lazy this year. I got to spend lots of time with my family, which is really what I wanted, so I have no complaints.

  7. 01/05/2012

    I was very lazy over the holiday too, and while I did read a fair amount, I spent a lot of time just hanging out with my family and eating good food. I remember that you really loved Moon Tiger, and I think I downloaded it after reading your review. I will have to check out your thoughts on her new one. Happy New Year to you and Tony over there! I hope it’s a great one!

  8. 01/16/2012

    Yeay for vacations! Sounds like it was much needed. 🙂 Hang in there, we understand how life gets.

  9. Guest

    Randomly searching for something on the net, stumbled across this blog post of yours.

    In case you haven’t found out, Mantracker does air in the U.S. albeit usually a season behind.

    On ‘The Science Channel’

    Here’s a link:

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