Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Case Histories - Kate Atkinson

Ok, so my read-all-of-EW's-New-Classics adventure hasn't been a smashing success thus far, and it promised to carry on sucking with the first few chapters of Kate Atkinson's Case Histories. Several unrelated people are killed/go missing/cleave their husbands' heads in twain, and Jackson Brodie (ex-PI) is left trying to put all the pieces together. Except that these are all puzzles from different boxes and it takes a healthy suspension of disbelief to let them all come together so neatly in the end like *spoiler* they do *end spoiler*

First, my beefs. Atkinson's writing drove me round the bend. This isn't an academic paper, Kate. You can block quote whole pages of dialogue, and no one will cry foul. I swear, nothing irks me more than paragraph after paragraph of narrative where Steve can't understand how he scored someone like Nicola because she's 'so gorgeous' and if Jackson were married to Steve, he'd be tempted to 'take a lover' but Nicola is 'the only woman in the world' for Steve and you know what? No. I don't want to read this. I want to read: 'I can't understand how I scored someone like Nicola because she's so gorgeous!' 'If I were married to Steve,' Jackson thought, 'I'd be tempted to take a lover.' 'I mean, Nicola's the only woman in the world for me!' Make them talk to me, don't tell me what they're saying. I bet you use finger-quotes irl.

Also, you should never be announcing an epiphany. That's akin to a voice breaking into a film to say 'And then something Very Dramatic happens.' I should be able to recognize the Dramatic Thing or the Epiphany on my own, and if I can't, then you've done something wrong. Or I'm an idiot. Either way, we're cool.

Also, there were several paragraphs that looked thusly: 'Words words words dash words words comma words words dash words words words dash words words words words comma words comma words comma words comma words full-stop.' Give me a second to breathe, woman! And within those paragraphs you find phrases like: '...she didn't feel capable of nurturing a kitten, let alone four, soon to be five, children, to say nothing of a great mathematician.' Let alone to say nothing of? Not to mention much less nevermind! Let the adverbs abound!

But, surprisingly, Atkinson won me over with frogs 'lolloping lazily,' and by successfully using a word like 'palimpsest' without forcing me to mumble something snide about thesauruses, and by casually suggesting that if hell exists, that it's 'governed by a committee of fifteen-year-old Italian boys on bikes,' a position which I've always held to be fairly theologically sound. It's almost like she honed her skill in writing Case Histories and came out the end a half-decent writer (which, shocking, because this is in no way her first book), and I kind of wish she'd gone back and re-written the first half. I would have given her a respectable caterpillaring.

As it stands, six caterpillars, and only because the sun shines. On lolloping frogs.
Second Opinions


_lethe_ said...

I haven't read this one, but I must say I *loved* her actual first book, Behind the Scenes at the Museum.

Bogsider said...

Thanks for a great review. I also read this one, and definitely wasn't thrilled at all ;o)

Always fun and interesting to see what other people are thinking of books I've read myself.


Anonymous said...

Loved the book, loved the next two; think she's a writer who takes you on a real racy ride.
Maybe you're too young to like this stuff.