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Thursday 13 March 2008

One Good Turn

by Kate Atkinson

In ‘One Good Turn’ Kate Atkinson has spun a story of compelling complexity. The plot is a patchwork of breathtaking episodes cut from the lives of a wide cast of characters.
What did Kate Atkinson do with this novel? Well, she made me fall in love with her hero, Jackson Brodie. He’s irresistible and the most sympathetic character in the novel.
Then she made me cry. You'll have to read Chapter 49 to find out how!

The plot is well structured and has a satisfying conclusion, and it provides a framework for some beautiful use of language and intriguing literary touches.

This passage illustrates her brilliant powers of description.
'Martin looked in horror at the glass of orange liquid that Paul Bradley came back with but felt obliged to say 'Thanks', and take a drink. He was sure there were cells in his liver that were committing suicide rather than deal with Scotland's two national drinks together in one vile cocktail.'
There are a huge number of characters in the book, but Kate Atkinson has made every single one of them real. She’s got under their skin and picked out the telling details that make each person what they are.
Though emotional, the story telling is never without humour. The predicaments of Martin Canning – crime writer – and his creation Nina Riley, give plenty of opportunity for amusement and also a thought provoking twist at the end of the novel.
As I read the book I wondered for a brief time why Kate Atkinson wasn't writing another novel just like 'Behind The Scenes At The Museum'. Until I realised that she wasn't because she couldn't, because she's moved on and this is ultimately a more satisfying book because of that.
‘One Good Turn’ is the second book featuring Jackson Brodie. He first appeared in ‘Case Histories’.

reviewed by Helen M. Hunt


Cathy said...

I'm really looking forward to reading this as I loved 'Case Histories'. Jackson Brodie certainly is a memorable character!

HelenMWalters said...

Kate Atkinson certainly has a talent for creating unforgettable characters and situations. Jackson Brodie is one, but also Ruby Lennox in 'Behind The Scenes At The Museum' and Effie in 'Emotionally Weird' who both stay with you long after the book is finished. I think it's to do with the way she manages to make characters sympathetic and flawed at the same time.

Anne Brooke said...

I'm actually just starting this one - and am really enjoying it! Which is a surprise as I didn't like the other two and couldn't get into them at all. I though I'd give her one last try and so far I'm glad I did.


HelenMWalters said...

Anne, You'll definitely be glad that you did. This book actually gets better and better as it goes along. Interesting that you didn't like the earlier stuff. This is subtly different. I think the structure and plot are richer than in the earlier books which makes it more satisfying.

Anonymous said...

I read this last summer, and agree with the review. I've read most of hers - her big talent to me seems to be her way of creating huge casts of very convincing characters whom you care about, but find yourself laughing a lot too. If you liked Case Histories, Cathy, you'll love it.

HelenMWalters said...

Chris - I think your comment is particularly true of both Case Histories and One Good Turn. They both have a huge number of characters but they are so well drawn that you end up caring about all of them.