Tag Archives: Kate Atkinson

A Little Something to Keep You Up At Night

English: Spooky in broad daylight This forlorn...
English: Spooky in broad daylight This forlorn scene gives a sense of the classic horror story. It only needs a misty autumn night and a full moon! The graveyard is due south of Rosslare and north of Tagoat. Interestingly no habitation for a wide radius – well would you live near here? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve enjoyed some great page-turning authors in the last few years, Kate Atkinson, Sandra Brown, and Harlan Coben to name a few. But I’ve just read two good books this past week that will keep you up reading past your bedtime. I promise.

S.J. Watson‘s first published novel Before I Go To Sleep is amazing. If I tell you what it’s about you might think it sounds “predictable” but I can guarantee that there isn’t anything predictable about it.

A woman wakes up in bed with a complete stranger (predictable). She sneaks around looking for the clothes she went to sleep in and then, sees herself in the mirror. Who she sees isn’t the woman she thought of herself as, in fact, the woman she sees is much older (could this be a sci-fi?) Then she sees the photos taped to the mirror. They are of her and the stranger in the bed. Then the stranger wakes up and begins to tell her how she was in an accident and has lost her memory. It’s a weird memory loss because she can remember things as she goes about the day but as soon as she falls into a deep sleep she forgets everything again. (This sounds boring. Please tell me that isn’t all.)

As the story progresses the reader begins to sense a sort of “dread”. Nothing is as it seems. Soon the woman begins to get the same sense of dread. Why does the man who says he is her husband really seem like such a stranger? Why does she get the feeling each day as she wakes up that she should run away? Is it part of her condition? As she begins to write the events of every day in a hidden journal (You may be thinking how can she remember that? Answer: It’s because a doctor calls her every morning to remind her to find the journal and read it.) Now, things begin to make more sense to her. Though as time passes things begin to make less and less sense.

There is something very wrong with her life besides the obvious. Why does her husband lie to her every day? Why does he get violent when things don’t work as they should like when a dish falls to the floor? She records the violence in her journal and then the next day he tells her the bruises on her face are from when she hit her face with the door. Hmmm.

A most unusual book told from her perspective and read by her/you from her secret journal. This is a horror story made all the more scary by the fact that – it could happen.

The only problem I have with this – having been in an accident where I had memory loss for months, is that what I wrote during those times was gibberish. Just saying.

The second book is a debut novel by Nicci French called Blue Monday. It starts out with the disappearance of a little girl and how this event devastated not only the community but the detective assigned to solve the case. It was never solved.

Skip ahead twenty years and a little boy disappears much in the same way that the girl did so many years before.

The protagonist is a psychotherapist and insomniac who wanders the streets at night. She has a new patient who is fantasizing about having a little boy because he and his wife can’t get pregnant. He feels like he is living in two different worlds, one he knows is real and one he knows isn’t and suddenly the two worlds are getting confused.

That’s the set up. I’m not adding any spoilers. It is an amazing read. The point of view of the little kidnapped boy will break your heart. It will. The graveyard scene will have your heart thudding long after you put the book down. That’s all I’m giving you.

These are books that will keep you up all night. Betcha.

My One Good Turn

Case Histories
Case Histories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kate Atkinson has written a great character in Jackson Brodie. I made the mistake of reading the four novels out of sequence. I wish there were somewhere in all the lists that I’ve seen where someone said “Read this one First” or something like that. Here, I will tell you which one to read first – Case Histories. In it you will learn about all the women that Jackson Brodie will get to know and you will recognize in novels to come. The author weaves the stories past and present into a work of art. There is at the core of the book the mystery of how three separate police cases over the course of thirty years can possibly be related. Rough-around-the-edges Jackson Brodie will put all the pieces together and it makes perfect sense.

They say no good deed goes unpunished and Kate Atkinson had a field day with what that means in One Good Turn. In it, Jackson Brodie is once more the receiver of bumps and bruises while only trying to HELP. Every character in the novel who tries to do something good gets in trouble in huge ways. With flying death-dealing dogs, a drowned girl who gets away, and a laptop computer as a weapon what else can I say?

Then on to When Will There Be Good News. This is the novel I read first. It didn’t hurt to do that except I would have enjoyed it much more if I’d read it third. In this novel a little girl named Joanna is walking in the country with her mother, sister and baby brother. A strange encounter turns her life inside out. Thirty years pass. Jackson Brodie is riding a train home until his ride ends dramatically. Little Reggie is a girl who is resourceful and full of life. All these people’s lives are on a collision course that seems so convoluted that you can’t imagine this is a work of fiction. These kinds of chance encounters happen in real-life. Sometimes we live to recover.

After reading When Will There Be Good News, I realized that I’d seen the movie. It isn’t called that but I can’t recall what the name of it is.

Lastly, Started Early, Took My Dog. In it the most unlikely thing is that Jackson gets a dog. It is so hilariously tragic in how he does it. After the last book and what happened to Jackson I couldn’t imagine that he would get beat up in this one but of course what would these books be like if he didn’t. However, he does get out of the altercation with less bruises this time. Of course his reputation doesn’t recover quite so quickly. There is a couple of tragedies in the character’s histories that make them do what they do – like stealing the girl. I especially loved the old woman who gets more and more muddled as the days pass. I kept thinking that she would be the spoiler. I kept hoping she would not be the spoiler. The way the book is written with one story weaving into another, and past and present and future all being melded into the strange quandary of what makes real life the way it is – brilliant.

So don’t get ahead of yourself like I did and read the books out-of-order. You’ll thank me for it.