The Persephone Book of Short Stories: It All Begins Again by Helen Hull


It All Begins Again is the story of Mary Bristol. She is a widow and in her seventies now. Mary appreciates her independence a lot, so she never had intended to live with her children. But everything changes when she falls ill with pneumonia. At a moment of weakness, Mary agrees to move in with Vera, her daughter. It is a decision Mary regrets soon afterward for they do not get along well with each other.

It All Begins Again was written in 1941, and the story is set in the US. At first, it seems like a story about the generational gap and parenting. But when we go into the story, we realize it is also about war and the destruction it brings. Mary has lived through many wars. Her father had fought in the Civil War. Her elder son had fought in World War I. At the time the story starts during World War II, Paris is on the brink of falling into enemy hands.

What struck me the most about the story is the subtle way Helen Hull draws our attention to consequences of wars. Losses of wars can not be measured by merely the number of fallen heroes and casualties. Wars touch many more lives, which makes its repetitiveness quite sad.


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