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Human Croquet

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  4,269 ratings  ·  342 reviews
New York TimesBook ReviewNotable Book of the Year

Part fairy tale, part mystery, part coming-of-age novel, this novel tells the story of Isobel Fairfax, a girl growing up in Lythe, a typical 1960s British suburb. But Lythe was once the heart of an Elizabethan feudal estate and home to a young English tutor named William Shakespeare, and as Isobel investigates the strange hi...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published November 12th 1999 by Picador (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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karen
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
Kim

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...more
Jemidar

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 :-).
Sibyl
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...more
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...more
Nancy
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...more
Kate George
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elizabeth
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.
Siria
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
Jennifer
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
Catie
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
D
Apr 07, 2013 D rated it 2 of 5 stars
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...more
Gail Goetschius
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...more
K
Aug 09, 2009 K rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
L.B.
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
yoli
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
Sherry
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
Helen
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?
Julie
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.
Clarissa
kinda wacky...lots of traveling back and forth through time and stories, but a great read. she's hilarious and wonderful...
Kathleen
I am a Kate Atkinson fan, and this is one of her earlier works. She combines motherless children, time travel, a fairy tale quality, and mysterious disappearances and reappearances, all centered around her protagonist and sometime narrator, Isobel Fairfax. The core of the novel begins on Isobel's sixteenth birthday, 1 April 1960. Not until very late in the novel to do find out who the real villain is and why her mother disappeared--though Eliza Fairfax is not the first Fairfax to disappear into...more
Katie
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
Erin W
In Atkinson’s pre-Jackson Brodie works, the emotional thrust of the story is always subtle and realistic, but she often includes these nods to fantasy, or even magical realism. Supernatural elements or fantasy elements are sparingly sprinkled throughout the plot just enough to make you say, “Wait, what?”

Anyway, this is her second novel—not quite as amazing as her first, Behind the Scenes at the Museum—but still quite worthwhile. The character is a girl, Isobel, growing up in a family with a frac...more
M
Excellent! Back into the Atkinson swing of things - this book contains what makes her such an exceptional writer - her dark, sharp wit, her ability to weave together a story that makes you want to read the book twice to get all the insight that only makes sense toward the end, her endless allusions boht literary and cultural, her spinning of a story so rich that you end up having private jokes with the characters, her unbelievable skill at sketching such colorful people - this book was another B...more
Susan
Told from the point of view of Isobel, its omniscient narrator, this is a complicated family history, full of fantasy masquerading as truth and truth masquerading as fantasy, of mixed identities, of events that turn into dreams and dreams that turn into events. It is set in England, on the estate of one Francis Fairfax, some 300 years after his residence there. Shakespeare is a bit player, along with a cast of evil schoolteachers, missing mothers, spinsters, smart adolescents, kindly matrons coo...more
Gill
Found this book really hard to get into so pleased I persevered with it as could not put it down, read it in two days absolutely loved it. Kate Atkinson is such a talented writer was sorry when I finished it just wanted it to go on and on.
Penelly
I'm on a Kate Atkinson reading spree at the moment. I'm enjoying all her novels. This one incorporates the mystery and sadness of many of her stories (told through the eyes of a teenaged girl whose parents disappear) but also manages to be quirky and surreal, jumping backwards and forwards in time, with the main character suddenly time-travelling. As usual, it's full of rich well-developed characters and a dark sense of humour, which is perhaps the main reason I keep returning to Atkinson's work...more
Hawkgrrrl
Okay, so I'm still not sure what Human Croquet has to do with anything, but this was one fascinating ride. Like many Kate Atkinson books, about a third of the way in I had no clue what was going on but was revelling in the pleasure of her eccentric prose and weird characters. There was sort of a payoff in the end. I won't spoil it. It was worth getting through, though. And there are still unanswered questions, but they are just as satisfying as the answered ones. Kate Atkinson is one of my favor...more
Elliot Ratzman
Spoiler alert. The cleverness of the writing and the occasional insightful observation did not redeem this novel for me. Isobel is a sour, middling, middle-class teenager in 1960s Britain dealing with square peg friends, a vanished (murdered) mother, a distant father, an inept stepmother, etc. The fairy tale aspects of the plot left me cold; the frequent family violence and sexual taboos were without the requisite emotional impact or narrative weight. Characters die, young women are impregnated...more
Colleen
Maybe 3.5 stars. A girl growing up in a small English suburb in the late 1940's and 1945's who loses her mother at age 7 or so and is raised for 7 more years by her father's spinster sister and his mother. Dad arrives home with a new wife who tries to be a mother to Isobel and her older brother, but she's a terrible cook. Isobel spends most of her time dreaming about what life would have been like before the 1600s in the tract of woods nearby and hanging out with her friends whose parents are mu...more
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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
More about Kate Atkinson...
Life After Life Case Histories (Jackson Brodie, #1) When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie, #3) Behind the Scenes at the Museum Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie, #4)

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“The beginning is the word and the end is silence. And in between are all the stories.” 93 likes
“I am mad, I think. I am mad therefore I think. I am mad therefore I think I am.” 12 likes
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