Tag Archives: Jackson Brodie

Kate Atkinson – When will there be good news?

Now I have read this book before so when it was chosen for book club I was disappointed as I didn’t fancy reading it again, especially after being disappointed by the BBC’s recent dramatisation of some of the other books in the series.  However it took me less than the first chapter to be completely hooked.  Fortunately I could not remember all of the plot and I was taken in by Atkinson’s fantastic story, witty humour and literary references.

Like all of her Jackson Brodie books Atkinson deals with extremely dark subject matter in a humourous way.  The story opens with a mother and two of her young children being horrifically murdered whilst walking down a country lane in Devon.  The story then flash forwards about thirty years to Edinburgh to focus on the life of poor  sixteen year old Reggie Chase, her mother has died, her brother is a criminal and her only respite is looking after the child of Dr Hunter or being tutored by the batty Ms MacDonald.

It is filled with literary references such as Louise comparing herself to being flawed like the Golden Bowl and humourous word play such as about the Yorkshire town, Hawes/Whores, mistaking a discussion about William Morris  for a gay friend called Maurice or;

“I think there might have been a nephew or a niece but they were, you  know whats it called ?Like ‘strangled’

“Estranged?”

“Yeah that’s it”.

Louise’s embittered  views on men are always entertaining; “Twenty years ago she would have found his moodiness attractive, now she just wanted to punch him”

or one of my favourite lines;

“The mug had written on it Washed in the blood of the lamb “Not the mug, obviously that was washed in fairy liquid””

Since becoming an animal lover convert I have noticed that similar to her subsequent novel, Started Early, Took my Dog  there seem to be lots of references to dogs, almost every key character has one,  including even references  to Hitler’s love for his dog, and the heartbreaking reference to the first dog in space  Laika;

“She was rescued from an animal centre, she must have thought that she was going to a home, to a family, and instead they sent her to the loneliest death in the world” .

As in all the Jackson Brodie novels the character are all linked together in an almost implausible way,  but as the characters say; “A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen”.  This is a great story and a really interesting read.  I enjoyed  this book even though at the end you aren’t really sure if it is actually a happy or tragic ending for many of the characters.  Maybe the bittersweet  and humourous aspect of these novels is what makes them so different from ordinary crime novels.

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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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