Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

"Case Histories" by Kate Atkinson (Black Swan, 2005)

A slow start as the characters and plots are introduced, and the writing's rather pedestrian initially too. I didnt get into it until beyond page 100. The pace increases as chapters are from different PoVs, sometimes overlapping chronologically.

Because it's a whodunnit one expects all the strands to unite rather than remain in parallel, but there are themes and coincidences. Hints about older men's interest in young girls are scattered - kids parties, beauticians, etc. Fathers and daughters abound. Dogs are women's familiars. A girl on a sheet with a dog is independently seen and given 5 pounds by 2 characters who both think she'll spend it on drugs. Too young to be the missing person - her daughter maybe? One person thinks the take-away service should be monitored while character is a mystery-shopper who tests the take-away. Cakes and death come together more than once - "his face, Jackson had thought at the time, the colour of Wensleydale cheese. He offered them tea and Jackson thought - neither for the first nor for the last time - how strange it was that people just kept on going, even when their world no longer existed. Theo had even produced cake from somewhere, saying, 'Cherry and almond, I made it the day before she died. It keeps well.'", p.162

An early obsession with telling us people's ages might be explained by Victor's profession or how the plot turns on knowing people's ages - "Sylvia, thirteen" (p.17) "Rosemary married their father Victor when she was eighteen years old - only five years older than Sylvia was now" (p.18). On p.300 we're given a list of names and ages as preparation for the revelation on p.306 that the street-girl is 25, not 17.

I don't mind red herrings but I felt a little cheated that only at p.186 are we told that Victor interfered with his daughters - earlier we hear about his porn collection, surely an opportunity for the daughters to mention his proclivities.

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