Kate Atkinson - Started Early, Took My Dog
"Kate Atkinson could write out the phone book and I’d revel in it."
It's a day like any other for security chief Tracy Waterhouse, until she makes a purchase she hadn't ever planned making. One moment of madness is all it takes for Tracy's humdrum world to be turned upside down, the tedium of everyday life replaced by fear and danger at every turn.
Witnesses to Tracy's Faustian exchange in the Merrion Centre in Leeds are Tilly, an elderly actress teetering on the brink of her own disaster, and Jackson Brodie who has returned to his home county in search of someone else's roots. All three characters learn that the past is never history and that no good deed goes unpunished.
Kate Atkinson is fast earning a reputation as the crime novelist for those readers who like splashes of eccentricity with their murderous characters.
This novel weaves between the three unconnected characters; Jackson Brodie, Tracey and Tilly and an unsolved crime reaching back into the 1970's. Each character has a major part to play in the denouement, but as you read you can't imagine how it is all going to come together. And then with a quiet flourish Atkinson parcels it all up as neatly as the gift wrapping service in a smart department store.
The novel has a central theme of belonging and finding your place in society; Jackson is a perennial wanderer, Tracey has ever been the outcast, the archetypal woman in a man's world and Tilly who has spent a long career acting as other people veers towards senility and a crisis that has been building her entire life. Of the characters on display Tilly is perhaps the one who is most carefully and sympathetically drawn, but the one whose validity you find yourself questioning. But of course, being an Atkinson character she has a part to play, which isn't apparent until the very end.
Kate Atkinson could write out the phone book and I'd revel in it. Her prose is playful and insightful and this never has a detrimental effect on her novel's pace. She has a style with words that is completely her own and continues to inject a sensibility and breath into her characters that never fails to delight.
Reviewed by: M.M.