MINI REVIEWS: Kate Atkinson

Thought I'd do an extra long post all about Kate Atkinson's books. She's one of my all-time favourite authors, so I won't ramble and I'll let you read the reviews:

Case Histories (Jackson Brodie #1)
Case Histories is one of the best books I've ever read and, funny enough, I've read a lot of books. It's pretty much indescribable, but, if you read one crime book this year, please make it this one.

Case one: A little girl goes missing in the night.

Case two: A beautiful young office worker falls victim to a maniac's apparently random attack.

Case three: A new mother finds herself trapped in a hell of her own making - with a very needy baby and a very demanding husband - until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape.
Thirty years after the first incident, as private investigator Jackson Brodie begins investigating all three cases, startling connections and discoveries emerge . . .

MY THOUGHTS: After reading Behind the Scenes at the Museum, I thought I'd give the Jackson Brodie series a go. At first I was uncertain: How am I going to relate to middle-aged private detective? But as I got into the plot, I found that only he could investigate these crimes. With the connection of a three-year-old going missing and him playing the worried parent to his own child, things seemed to slip together nicely.So, onto the plot. I'm not going to lie and say this book is simple and easy to follow, because it's not. It has so many characters, crimes and viewpoints that there really is no distinguishable plot. In fact, it kind of dissolves into a web of multiple sub-plots. But rest assure, this makes the whole book more enjoyable. So, first things first, there are three main stories; case 1, the disappearance of a three-year-old from a garden tent; case 2, the murder of a teenager at her father's office; and case 3, the murder of a man by his estranged wife. The cases are kept fairly separate at the beginning of the book and it alternates so in each chapter a different case is being followed (although further on in the book the cases seem to merge together slightly more). Jackson Brodie (the aforementioned private detective who is called on to investigate these family tragedies) also has stand-alone chapters of his own about his ex-wife and her new partner.

Anyway, no matter how complicated it is, all of the sub-plots link together fluidly with many conclusions I didn't expect (great to read a totally unpredictable crime novel). I really enjoyed Kate Atkinson's style as well - she writes dramatically and suspensefully, even managing to incorporate humour into these dark scenes.

All round it's a really great crime novel and, although for adults, teenagers (like me!) will definitely enjoy it. If I was to make one tiny criticism about the book, case 3 isn't as emotionally developed as the other two, but still the book is one of my all-time favourites.

Emotionally Weird Weird is a beautiful novel, really showcasing Kate Atkinson's ability to mould the most complex of human beings and to allow such humanity to manifest within her characters. However, for some reason, Emotionally Weird – as brilliant as it was – is not my favourite Atkinson novel.

On a weather-beaten island off the coast of Scotland, Effie and her mother, Nora, take refuge in the large, mouldering house of their ancestors and tell each other stories. Nora, at first, recounts nothing that Effie really wants to hear--like who her real father was. Effie tells various versions of her life at college, where in fact she lives in a lethargic relationship with Bob, a student who never goes to lectures, seldom gets out of bed, and to whom Klingons are as real as Spaniards and Germans.

But as mother and daughter spin their tales, strange things are happening around them. Is Effie being followed? Is someone killing the old people? And where is the mysterious yellow dog?

In a brilliant comic narrative which explores the nonsensical power of language and meaning, Kate Atkinson has created another magical masterpiece.

MY THOUGHTS: Emotionally Weird is the third novel written by Kate Atkinson, and it lives up to the high levels of all the others. As an author, she has the natural ability to make characters jump off the pages and to make them memorable. Like her other books, Emotionally Weird didn't make me cry, or make me laugh hysterically, but it made me think - and that's the best thing a book can make you do.

The plot uncurls slowly into this vibrant and vivid tale about this fascinating mother-to-daughter relationship. The plot is intricate, the characters delicate, the entire novel leaving the reader almost in a trance as they turn the pages.

However, for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, I didn't enjoy this as much as I enjoyed her other novels. Though I still thoroughly recommend Emotionally Weird.

Behind the Scenes of the Museum soon as I found out I was named after the protagonist of this book, I set out to read it. Unfortunately, I was only little and so I found myself giving up. But a year or so later I decided to give it another go, and thank goodness I did. Behind the Scenes at the Museum is the first novel by Kate Atkinson and a brilliant too.

Ruby Lennox was conceived grudgingly by Bunty and born while her father, George, was in the Dog and Hare in Doncaster telling a woman in an emerald dress and a D-cup that he wasn't married. Bunty had never wanted to marry George, but here she was, stuck in a flat above the pet shop in an ancient street beneath York Minster, with sensible and sardonic Patrica aged five, greedy cross-patch Gillian who refused to be ignored, and Ruby...

Ruby tells the story of The Family, from the day at the end of the nineteenth century when a travelling French photographer catches frail beautiful Alice and her children, like flowers in amber, to the startling, witty, and memorable events of Ruby's own life.

Told by the youngest member of the family, Ruby Lennox tells the reader about generations of her dysfunctional family. With the insightful little footnotes and general quirky-ness of Ruby I didn't find find this book as sad as I probably should have - in fact some bits were quite funny. Although the characters seemed to be trapped in a life that wasn't meant for them, the writing isn't depressing or anything, but - in most cases - uplifting. I mean, I spent most my time thinking about the characters instead of feeling sorry for them (and, with nine or so main characters, that's a lot of thinking!)

A recurring theme in the book is Kate Atkinson's trademark unhappy female character - if you've read any other books by her you'll know what I mean. But like I've mentioned before, Behind the Scenes at the Museum is not a sad read. Despite the deaths and tragedies in the family, you'll want to read more about Alice, Bunty, George, Gillian, Nell, Patricia and most importantly Ruby.

All in all, I genuinely can't really find the words to sum up the story of Ruby's life and family, but luckily I've found this quote to do it for me:

“Stories never really end... even if the books like to pretend they do. Stories always go on. They don't end on the last page, any more than they begin on the first page.” Cornelia Funke

I'd like to believe that the Lennox family continues for years on - they may not be the happiest bunch of characters, but they've got an excellent story!


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