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Friday 8 October 2010

Started Early, Took My Dog

By Kate Atkinson

I love Kate Atkinson and I love Jackson Brodie, so I knew I was going to enjoy this book – the fourth in the Brodie series – before I started.

Although there’s no reason why this book shouldn’t be read as a stand-alone novel, I would always recommend with a series like this that they ideally be read in order. In any case it would be a shame to miss out on the other three books (Case Histories, One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News), as they are all fabulous.

One of the joys of reading this series is the development of Jackson Brodie as a character through time, and also the examination of the shifting sands of his relationships with the significant people in his life.

As ever Kate Atkinson’s writing is rich with imagery and allusion. And this time an overlay of historical detail adds another dimension. The shocking real life events of Yorkshire in the seventies provide a backdrop and counterpoint to the present day events of the novel.

Difficult themes are tackled in the course of Jackson’s latest adventure. Death, murder, illness, infertility, treachery and betrayal are all woven in to the story. But Kate Atkinson manages to do this in such a way that the beauty of human life and the joy of just existing shine through the pain. Despite the depressing subject matter, it is not a depressing book.

Reading Kate Atkinson is always like disappearing into a different and slightly disconcerting world where reality is thrown into sharp relief. This exchange sums it up for me.

‘‘You can see why Dracula landed here, can’t you?’ the driver of the Avensis said.

‘Dracula isn’t real,’ Jackson pointed out. ‘He’s a fictional character.’

The driver shrugged and said, ‘Fact, fiction, what’s the difference?’’

Each character is drawn exquisitely and even the minor ones take on a vivid presence. From guesthouse landlady of a certain age, Mrs Reid, to Canadian security guard, Leslie, they all have a life of their own.

Without giving anything away, I really hope the ending indicates that a further Jackson Brodie book is on its way. I hope I don’t have too long to wait. But, meanwhile, I might just read this one again.

Reviewed by Helen M Hunt


Chris Stovell said...

I've been hooked on this series (although I'm a huge fan of Kate Atkinson full stop)and I'm really looking forwards to this.

Anonymous said...

Ooh haven't read these but will now!

Karen said...

I couldn't agree more Helen - I absolutely loved it and am hoping there'll be another one soon. I feel slightly bereft now I've finished it!

Anonymous said...

It seems I've only read 50% of the JB series. I must rectify this very soon.