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Human Croquet

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,989 Ratings  ·  476 Reviews
Once it had been the great forest of Lythe--a vast and impenetrable thicket of green with a mystery in the very heart of the trees.And here, in the beginning, lived the Fairfaxes, grandly, at Fairfax Manor, visited once by the great Gloriana herself.

But over the centuries the forest had been destroyed, replaced by Streets of Trees.The Fairfaxes had dwindled too; now they l

Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 19th 1997 by Doubleday Canada (first published 1997)
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i give it a three even though i enjoyed reading it in a four star kind of way. the three star means there are better books by her out there, but that this one is fun, if imperfect. and its a shame, because she really tells a good story. this one was just a little too ambitious with what it was trying to squeeze in, and there were too many storylines that either didnt connect gracefully, or had to be absorbed by inference. does that make sense?? i am inarticulate. towards the end it gets especial ...more

I'm a big fan of Kate Atkinson's witty prose and oddball characters, but I have to admit that this novel had a degree of weirdness beyond that found in those of her novels which I have read to date. In a mix of first person and third person narratives, it tells the story of Isobel Fairfax, a teenage girl from a most peculiar family, who finds herself unaccountably slipping through pockets of time. And that's the most easily understood part of the plot, because as time goes on, Isobel's life beco

I love Kate Atkinson but don't feel this novel is one of her best. Her prose style is still wonderful but this one seemed to lack her usual humour. In places I found it overwhelmingly sad and in others I was totally confused. The ending wasn't as satisfying as it might have been and I felt more than a little let down. Maybe when I've mulled it over a bit more I may feel differently. Still good though, if not particularly enjoyable because of difficult subject matter.

Buddy read with Kim :-).
Tarin Towers
Have you ever read a comedy of manners that involves time travel? Or a Gothic novel that takes place in the 1960s? Or a coming-of-age story whose rites of passage include meeting Shakespeare, witnessing several murders, burning down a house, and turning into a tree?

Kate Atkinson once again blew me away with this book. I had just finished reading "Case Histories" (5 stars), an unforgettable non-traditional mystery and expertly woven tale of identity and attachment, when I found "Human Croquet" on
Dec 25, 2011 Sibyl rated it really liked it
I read this book more or less at one sitting.

I alternated between admiring this book - and getting quite cross with it. I thought it was a mess. But a brilliant one. On one level I admire the author's ambition. The book tries to be everything. It's a romance, a historical novel, a medidation on time and nature, a work of magic realism, a homage to Shakespearean comedy, and an inspired set of variations and improvisations.

In places the writing is wonderfully noir, and there are sections which are
Jan 12, 2012 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book certainly presents me with a conundrum. The good: the writing style - it a pleasure to read; so jam-packed that, what in other books might seem overdone, here it was relatively light-hearted and literate. The moderate: the initial light-heartedness of the narrative belied the delicate, familiar strains of melancholy and fate, as the characters were lost and had suffered loss and had never entirely recovered.

The book is an interesting ... melange, I am not even entirely certain how to d
Gail Goetschius
Feb 08, 2013 Gail Goetschius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It is well written and chock full of eccentric characters realistically rendered. I'm rather fond of teenage characters( all those years of teaching high school) and Isobel is an endearing narrator . Her wry and witty perceptions of life prevent the tragic experiences she encounters from becoming too overwhelmingly depressing.

While I expected time travel to play a more significant role in the book it seemed almost an afterthought . I usually don't enjoy that type of t
Feb 26, 2013 L.B. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm torn about this book. On one hand I loved it. It's an impressive book. The writing is fantastic, superb, unique. I mean, she is a master at her craft. The structure is outstanding and also unique. It was one of those books that kept me up past my bedtime reading. And I'd walk around the house thinking about these characters and what was happening to them and I'd say to my husband (or whoever would listen) "This book is just so weird. Like, in a good way. One of the most unique things I've ev ...more
This book wants to be in a cage match with McEwan's Atonement, but, lacking confidence in itself, straps some badly explained timetravel to its breasts and tries to distract everyone.

Incest! Timetravel! Stolen babies! More incest! Family history! Teenage debauchery! Groundhog Day! Murder! All that....and more. Coming up next on What The Actual Fuck Channel.
I think that if there was some kind of Project Runway for the literary set, Tim Gunn would have taken one look at this book and told Kate Atkinson to bring an editing eye to it. There are so many interesting elements to this—the humour, the meta elements, the mixture of history and imagination—but for me it failed to become a cohesive whole, experimenting with different forms but never quite settling on one of its own. I could see what Atkinson was aiming for—looking at how the stories change wi ...more
Kate George
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 09, 2009 K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kate Atkinson fans
Recommended to K by: margueya
While this book wasn't quite as good as Behind the Scenes at the Museum A Novel, it had many of its strong points -- excellent writing and characterization, acerbic wit, good pacing, etc. It was also more creative and postmodern, which I found to be both a strength and a weakness.

Sixteen-year-old Isobel is a member of the Fairfax family, a long line of cursed individuals. And Isobel's life, like that of her predecessors certainly is miserable. Her mother disappeared permanently when she was you
Jun 08, 2011 Catie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Infused with gothic melodrama, darkly comic and yet wistful, literate and playful. The narrator is deeply unreliable so those readers who prefer a straight tale will probably not like it although the book is an enthralling page turner. Yummy
Nov 03, 2014 M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you loved Atkinson's Life After Life or John Crowley's Little, Big, you have to read this immediately. The jacket copy hooked me like crazy, but the book isn't exactly as advertised. It's just as good, though weirder and more impressionistic than I expected--but with enough threads of story to keep me hooked. I'm a plot junkie, but in Atkinson's hands I enjoyed the flights of micro-to-macro, universe-spanning fancy nearly as much as finding out "what happens next." Even when she's not writing ...more
Sep 18, 2007 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adore Kate Atkinson and enjoyed the humor in this book. The story focuses on a girl in a small (and quite odd) family. She grows up amid a mysterious set of neighbors and relations, dreaming that her dead mother will return to help her through puberty (among other things). As if that were not enough, she also has an odd, uncontrollable habit of time-traveling. Though the story isn't as riveting as Behind the Scenes at the Museum (my favorite Atkinson novel), Atkinson's witty voice is very ente ...more
Surreal but grounded, quirky but not frivolous, endearing and sad- this is a mystery of lost identity, lost souls, crimes of passion, time warps and warped minds. It's delicious, clever, unsettling, grim and guffaw-inducing. Atkinson is a category unto herself.
Linda S
I’d like to review this book for you, I really would. But I can’t, I just can’t. Why? Because I don’t have the first clue what this book was about. Not a clue.

There is some time travel, but I’m not sure why it exists, what it’s purpose was and how it puts the story forward. Oh yeah, the story. Umm, 353 pages and nine days later I’m not sure I know the story. It’s mostly about Isobel Fairfax and her extremely dysfunctional family and even more dysfunctional neighbors; the mysterious disappearance
6/2015: Just came across some notes from when I read this.
They are the notes of a younger me, and I cannot defend them as I don't really remember the book (other than the cat sleeping thing (q.v. below)).

"This is a surreal journey through the life of a suburban English teenager and her family. As eccentric as they appear throughout the book, the ultimate feeling is that they are just as normal as everyone else, or that everyone else is just as eccentric. I was charmed by the voice of this girl.
Carl R.
Apr 26, 2015 Carl R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Human Croquet is as good as Life After Life, which is right up there with my top fifty of all time. Kate Atkinson once again plays wondrous games with time and place, moving from era to century to event as she explores multiple levels of character and consciousness.

Isobel Fairfax is the teen-age daughter of Gordon and Eliza Fairfax, living in a house situated near a wood named Arden. All conveniently coincidental, since Fairfax was once Shakespeare's patron, and the area was once part of his est
Feb 12, 2014 Carolynj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Notes for ‘Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

It was a book where it helped to be familiar with Atkinson’s style. It was written between "Behind the scenes at the museum" and "Life after Life", and thematically the three novels follow each other and develop the underlying tropes as they go. That is not to say that the novels are a trilogy, the characters are not the same. Not the same in the story sense, but they are the same in the sense of a representative type. Atkinson does not disappoint, as alw
May 17, 2011 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, 1990s
Human Croquet is narrated by Isobel Fairfax and is the story of her family and their neighbours in the village of Lythe. Isobel and Charles’ exotic mother disappeared when they were very young, followed soon after by their father, leaving the children in the care of their steely, old fashioned grandmother and their irascible Aunt Vinny. Even after their father returns several years later no one seems willing to talk about what happened or why. In fact, lots of people in Lythe are hiding things a ...more
Apr 07, 2013 D rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I've not read any other of Kate Atkinson's books. She apparently has a large, enthusiastic following; although many of those folks did say that this is not her best work.
I enjoyed her writing tone, her sentence structure, the rich vocabulary that she employs to good effect. But I'm apparently too literal in my view of the world around me to appreciate, or certainly to follow, a book that has as many abrupt twists and turns as this one.
I did not find it easy or entertaining to try to disern betw
Jan 15, 2009 yoli added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: likers of stories, feminists, those who like to ponder identity, those who notice the seasons
Shelves: school-thesis
This was an amazing book. As Sanders mentioned in her book this is all about fairy tales and that mythical cusp between childhood and adulthood. But more than that it's about stories and how they are not definite. Stories change depending on the teller, when it's being told, the audience, and a thousand other factors can change even those core fundamental parts of a story that you thought were, well, the very essence of the story itself. Endings are also, as it turns out, not as important as one ...more
Dec 18, 2009 Sherry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kate Atkinson is an excellent writer. I've read Behind the Scenes at the Museum twice and all the Jackson Brody books. Human Croquet is her second book and deals with a young girl who has an odd habit of time-travelling, or does she? Human croquet is a game using people as hoops, balls (blindfolded) and controllers. Atkinson never has her characters play it, but she alludes to it often. In the book, Atkinson is the controller, bowling her characters this way and that, having them carom off each ...more
Apr 14, 2014 Helen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book; it had all of Kate Atkinson's humour and richness but sadly the story was a little too disjointed for me. I finished it on the train this morning and admit to being confused by the last couple of chapters that were tacked on and seemed to have little, if anything, to do with the rest of the book. Did I miss something?
If I were rating the story it gets a 3, but the language and the turn of phrase gets a 4. Shame this was a borrowed book or I'd have been highlighting all the amusing sentences. Behind the Scenes knocks this one's socks off.
Meh. This is a 3 star book through and through. On one hand it was entertaining and compelling. Although a bit tough to get into, Atkinson's intro and prologue do not follow the tone of the rest of the book; she attempts to weave a full cosmic discussion of the connection of matter and the spark of life in a way that was just trite. On the other hand, she steals her own plot line from Life after Life for a large portion about 2/3rds of the way through and her characters are not very likeable and ...more
Julie Lit
Je pense que je lirais à peu près n'importe quel livre de Kate Atkinson, qui réussit à prendre les douleurs et les secrets d'une famille et d'en faire une lecture captivante et unique. Son style y est pour beaucoup: on y trouve des perles de description de personnages, un humour grinçant et quelque chose d'autre que je trouve difficile à définir...peut-être une habileté à créer des textes comme des poupées russes? Dans celui-ci, la perte d'Eliza, la mère d'Isobel et de Charles, est l'événement c ...more
May 27, 2016 Rosia_lady rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
great read
Yes. This story is a wonder, a maze, a dream, a revelation. Among other stuff.

It's laughing-aloud funny, heartbreakingly sad, far-out fantastic, hard-core real, cruel and gentle and beautiful. The language alone is a treat, and the story carries you along, getting lost on all the paths and non-paths in the forest. Most of the characters are fairy-tale formulaic, but with truly human quirks.

The real story is about how Isobel muddles through all her sadness and confusion, not really by the events
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One story, several possible outcomes. 2 21 Feb 24, 2014 07:12PM  
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Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and she has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories,
More about Kate Atkinson...

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“The beginning is the word and the end is silence. And in between are all the stories.” 106 likes
“I am mad, I think. I am mad therefore I think. I am mad therefore I think I am.” 13 likes
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