Dec 18, 08
Read in December, 2008
This novel had a lot of four star moments, but many two star as well, so I rest at three.
It was in many ways the best and worst of Atkinson's style - once again you are on some sort of magical realism journey, and because she is so talented at weaving a hillarious narrative I just went along with it, which is something that amazes me about her because few authors can get me to do that.
That being said, it was an extreme example of her plotlessness, and all the more so because the overall premise is someone who is spinning a story alongside her mother who constantly pesters her, when is something going to happen? And though I did not mind the ostensible lack of plot in her previous works, given that the characters were so fresh and the insight and humor so enjoyable, here I found that the pace got annoying and the overall lack of focus irritating.
Something else that both helps and hurts Atkinson is her narrator's passivity - this was also true in Behind the Scenes and Human Croquet, you feel like the heroine is sort of shlepped into all kinds of situations and eras without her doing anything about it - yet this same detachment inspires a wonderful narrative observing all the quirks around her in a most effective way - here it was more of the same but it got me annoyed more often - she keeps talking about how she has to write an essay for her teacher (ok perhaps this struck a particular chord with me) and yet she 'finds herself' in all sorts of random baby sitting jobs (that involve more adults than babies) and cars and experiences.
However, Atkinson also delivers her usual dose of wonderful characters who are so well sketched and so idiosyncratic that the book is still enjoyable, not to mention that so many characters are involved in two things close to my heart that I found particularly funny - snooty pseudo intellectual academia that makes no sense and attempts at writing the Next Great Novel, which I appreciated. In many ways this is a book about writing, so I guess it makes sense that nothing actually happens. But still.
Anyway overall it was at times very readable but I would list it below the other works I have read, which I found much more engaging.