Kate Atkinson – Started Early, Took my Dog

I am never sure if these Jackson Brodie novels by Kate Atkinson are a guilty reading pleasure as they are so easy to read and enjoyable.  Actually, I think she is really clever and makes very witty observations.  I was first attracted to the cover of  Started Early, Took my Dog, showing Fountains Abbey.  I have a feeling that I may have managed to miss out the last book When will there be Good News?, so various incidents were recounted that I couldn’t remember.  This book seems bleaker than some of the others; poor Jackson, his life is so bad (no home, con artist wife, lonely etc) that I find it hard to imagine how he carries on, maybe its his lovely dog who he picks up in the novel.  In fact the dog might be my favourite character.

The story begins with the discovery by policewoman Tracy of the murder of a prostitute in 1975 in Leeds which is then  juxtaposed with  incidents from the present day.  It shows the institutional sexism of the police in the 1970s.  The present day storylines involve Courtney, a child who is bought from a seemingly unfit mother by the extremely funny but tragic character of Tracy as well as the dementia of Tilly a soap actress.

What I love about Atkinson´s Brodie series are her evocative descriptions of the places where the novels are based, this time it is Leeds and various surrounding areas, as well as her social commentary and cutting satire on popular culture.  She writes things that are definitely not politically correct such as “Courtney? Typical chav name” or an incident based in Whitby;

“He ran up the 199 steps to the abbey and was pleased about how fit he still was.  Everywhere people were puffing and panting their way up the steps.  He had never seen so many fat people in one place at the same time.  …It used to be the poor who were thin and the rich who were fat it now seemed to be the other way round”

I actually had these thoughts as I went up the steps to Whitby but probably wouldn´t express them myself.  She notices all the details of the places she is describing, in fact she sums up many of peoples´attitudes to Yorkshire;

“He had been trying to visit all the Betty´s tea rooms …. Jackson was a big fan of Betty´s, you could guarantee a decent coffee, as well as the  waitresses looking as if they were nice girls and women, and everything was fitting and clean.”

She makes witty descriptions and the characters are self-deprecating. Incidents such as Jackson carrying a folder  to show his authority and menace even though it is from poundland, contains nothing official and is neon pink make you laugh out loud..

This is a great page turner, extremely funny and well worth reading.

Vaulted Monks' refectory, Fountains Abbey, Yor...

Fountains Abbey



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8 responses to “Kate Atkinson – Started Early, Took my Dog

  1. Great review. Makes me want to read it… Partly ‘cos it’s based in Leeds, but especially due to those funny observations which, as you say, we all notice but don’t feel we should voice in public.

    • Kerry Wood

      You voice them in public! Anyway think you would like it being a sort of Yorkshire lad especially due to your Betty’s obsession.

  2. Laura

    Love Kate Atkinson. Read ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ (set in York) when at uni with Vicki & have loved (most of) her books ever since. Living in Spain I guess you didn’t see the Beeb’s production of these stories, but I think they lost her subtle humour & descriptions as well as randomly changing venues for events. I do agree with you on the ‘guilty pleasure’ front as they are an easy read with laugh-out-loud moments, but does that then mean that they’re not ‘worthy’? x

    • Watched the first Case Histories last night and it was ok, but obviously wasn´t that interested as kept pausing it and going off to do something else. I think you are right the books are better, and I didn´t imagine Jackson Brodie like Jason Isaacs.

  3. Kerry Wood

    I think you are right, they are just so readable and addictive. I now need to read When will there be good news? once I have given it enough time to forget the plot that this one has given away. If you haven’t read this one you would like it for the Yorkshire references. I liked Behind the scenes too but thought the two after were disappointing.

  4. Pingback: Kate Atkinson – When will there be good news? | Rotten Books

  5. Carol Jepson

    I have really enjoyed all her books. They are definitely very readable but I still think they are worthy and well-written. There is also something different about them; she is quite dry and very observant. Started Early got me through an evening at the worst hotel in France – grim, we were the only guests and there was a fight when we went out for a stroll. Disappointingly, I left the book in the room so had to get it from the library and start again – no hardship. I thought the tv programme was ok but was annoyed that it had been re-located to Edinburgh and Jackson Brodie was no longer from Yorkshire – why do that?!
    The comments about weight and class might not be politically correct but it’s probably a true reflection. The same probably goes for suntans.

    • I agree with everything you say there. You find yourself laughing at the things she says that aren’t PC, thinking should I be laughing at that? Yes Jackson should have been a Yorkshire man!

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