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.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

"Not the end of the world" by Kate Atkinson (Black Swan, 2002)

12 stories, each 20-30 pages long. They share a cast of characters whose opinions (and much less often feelings) are revealed to us via the narrator who rather makes fun of them. The final story's a continuation of the first, I think. I can't work out what most of the stories aim to achieve, or what the allusions to Greek myths are for. "The Cat Lover" for example, seems pedestrian compared to what Angela Carter (or even early Ian McEwan) would do with the idea. "Temporal Anomaly" puzzled me. It's a ghost story, where the ghost ages ("It seemed particularly unfair that she was both dead and getting older"). At the end the ghost comes alive for 6 months (a summer) then sees Hades in his chariot again. OK, but so what? After all, rewrites of Greek myths are common. Towards the end of the last story we get some explanation of the allusions. Within the stories whose plot I don't get (unless their only purpose is to match the myths, or cross-reference to the other stories), there are passages that puzzle me, not least because of the phrasing and repetition, the sudden explicit introduction of Greek, the out-of-nowhere change of topic, though they're lively -

  • In the hours between curfew and dawn Charlene listened to the sirens wailing through the night and planned an article on 'Great Tips For Spring Weddings'. She fell asleep with her hand on the Sig Sauer semi-automatic she kept under her pillow and didn't wake until Eosphorus, the morning star, rose and heralded the coming of his mother, Eos, the dawn. (p.31)
  • Paternity, in general, wasn't a subject that Addison had ever given much thought to until he found that he was going to be a father himself. When he celebrated his fortieth birthday Addison had neither child nor wife. When he celebrated his forty-first he had both, one inside the other. Every morning when Addison woke up he was surprised anew by these two facts (p.129)
  • 'Did you know,' Missy asked Arthur, 'that they can weigh galaxies?'
    'Sie führen mich an,' Arthur said, consulting his phrase book.
    'I'm sorry?'
    'You're pulling my leg,' he laughed, pleased that he knew something that Missy didn't.
    Missy and Arthur were in possession of an extra-ordinary detailed itinerary for the German leg of Boak's tour, prepared by the band's publicist, a girl called Lulu, who, as well as providing flight times, driver details and hotel reservations, had also given two different mobile numbers on which she could be contacted

Other reviews

  • Helen Falconer (Guardian) (when Atkinson started writing at the age of 30, following the birth of her second child, all her literary efforts were short stories - seven years spent filing manuscripts under the bed, before entering the Woman's Own Short Story Competition and shocking herself by scooping first prize.)
  • Sara Peannkuche (It is clever without being cutesy and wry without being caustic. ... Though Atkinson may experiment with mythological elements to tell a story, the myths are, in the end, just a tool to explore her central theme of the book: longing ... Main characters in one story show up as peripheral figures in other stories, and yet the reader isn't sure what connects the stories and how they overlap until the very end. And even though the twist at the end is not necessarily innovative, it is used to great advantage to effectively and satisfactorily connect the dots of Atkinson's worlds to produce a single story where nothing is coincidental and everything has a purpose)
  • Carol Birch (Independent) (It's very clever, and Kate Atkinson is an erudite and interesting writer with a lovely turn of phrase. However, there are not many more than three or four good stories. ... Atkinson has a love of words and takes delight in the sheer manipulation of them, but mostly these are idea-oriented stories that sacrifice warmth and fail to stick. There is an overload of cross-referencing and the multitudinous cast are, for the most part, so unmemorable that you keep coming over names of people you know you've met before, but can't put an identity to)
  • Kirkus review (unparalleled in deftness but in their depth less compelling ... Stories, on balance, that appear above all to love the sound of their own voices)

No comments:

Post a Comment