Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review of Kate Atkinson's latest novel

Started Early, Took My DogStarted Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m in a rowdy pub, watching England play Slovenia. It’s crowded, so I have to park myself right under the wall-mounted screen, my book resting on the shelf. Towards the end of the match, with the restless crowd running short of things to shout and despairing of a second goal, a voice starts chanting: “If you love Kate Atkinson, stand up!”

I’m already standing up. So is most of the pub. We all love Kate Atkinson. She is becoming one of Britain’s most popular authors, and with good reason, and with ‘Started Early, Took My Dog’ she maintains that quality.

‘Started Early’ brings us back to some of the characters we met in [[ASIN:184657238X Case Histories]], with the Scottish private investigator Jackson Brodie bringing his peculiar brand of gruff humour to a collection of apparently unrelated mysteries. Where Atkinson shines, as always, is in creating a large cast of perfectly realised characters, each of whom is unique and sympathetic, or at least understandable and human.

Early on, the novel does demand slightly too much faith from the reader that all the disparate characters will come together to make a coherent story. Tilly is a particularly peripheral character: separated from the action and with a role that only becomes apparent at the very end. She justifies her place in the novel, but only just. But Atkinson’s readers have learnt to trust her, and that trust is rewarded.

To be honest, it’s not as strong as her earlier work, and plausibility is stretched a bit far in places, especially at the end. But it’s still brilliantly written and highly entertaining, so it looks like Atkinson will have another hit on her hands. Unlike England’s footballers, hers is a talent that can be relied on.

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