Anita's Reviews > Not the End of the World

Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson
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's review
Oct 16, 2010

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bookshelves: short-stories
Read from October 11 to 15, 2010

I really like Kate Atkinson. I enjoyed her Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and I absolutely love her Jackson Brodie series. (I'm waiting impatiently for the fourth book in the series, which is already out in the UK but doesn't come out here in the US until March of 2011!)

This collection of short stories is closer in tone to Behind the Scenes: quirky, inventive, odd, and funny. The book is framed by the first and last stories, which follow two characters as the world ends and are essentially one story divided in two. The rest of the stories, although each stands alone, are all connected to each other in strange, tangential ways -- a distant cousin mentioned in passing in one story is the main character in another story, for example.

Atkinson's writing, as always, is original and moving. I love this passage, from the story "Wedding Favors." The main character is a divorced woman whose two children (who treat her pretty shabbily) have left for college.

What happened when you'd plotted the whole course of your life by your children and then they weren't there anymore?
It was the difference between winter and summer, even if you didn't get on with them, even if they didn't like you, even if you weren't very sure that you liked them. When they were there, everything was in blossom, everything fruitful, and when they were gone, the world was a cold dreich place, a place like the far north country where there were no trees or flowers and the winds howled like ghosts across the frozen tundra.....
The thing was, you were always waiting for them to walk back in -- not as themselves, not as they were now, no -- what you expected (what you dreamed of) was that they were going to walk through the door and be three years old.

The hint of an allusion to the Demeter/Persephone story in the passage is an example of another theme that runs throughout this book -- most of the stories have allusions or references to mythology -- very fitting for a book which is ultimately about transformations, and crossings from one world to another.

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