Wednesday, 16 March 2011

"Started Early, Took My Dog" by Kate Atkinson

Nearly all the books I buy are second hand (or much older than that). I get them from charity shops or from Amazon, both utterly inexhaustible treasure-chests of delight.

Occasionally, though, I can't wait for the latest best-seller to turn up in the Salvation Army shop. 

Last week I bought the latest novel by Kate Atkinson, whose first book, "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" was set in York, my alma mater.  That was prize-winning literary fiction, a one-off and hard to repeat, and in fact the author has never been able to repeat that strange, deep and eccentric genius, so this talented writer has more recently turned to detective fiction.

I bought this book from Sainsbury's on a "two-for £7.00" offer, and I paid for it with my Nectar vouchers so effectively it was free.  I don't know why I feel compelled to share that information.

Just like the last four books of hers that I've read, I found this a completely compulsive page-turner. I read it in a little over 6  hours.  I can be specific, because I read it on three return journeys by train, plus a few pages at the end finishing off at home.

Just like all her other books except the first, which was really quite mystical, this one left me feeling like you do after you've compulsively gobbled your way through a box of medium-quality chocolates.  Stuffed, slightly depressed, and somewhat sick.  Cheap chocs you don't finish, very expensive ones you can take in small doses and they don't leave you feeling any the worse.  This is the range in between. 

You feel sick because there are so many murders in the book, and so many really quite ridiculous co-incidences.  Why keep on reading?  Because of the story, you really want to find out what happens next.  And because of  the throw-away lines about modern Britain throughout the book, which keep you engaged, keep you waiting for the next one.  This is really what it's like in UK in 2010, you think, I so recognize that.

Almost all KA's books have the murder of a child at the heart of the story.  You would like to think that's unrealistic, but oh, no, it is all too easy to see echoes of so many real-life child victims ..  dead children and lost - little Madeleine McCann and Shannon Matthews as well.

Quite a few deaths in this story, oh, no, not too far-fetched at all. I heard a real-life story from the factory manager at work today which matched one of the characters almost exactly - a man strangled his awkward ex-lover.  In the real life case, the children had already lost their father to cancer, so they are now orphans.  Just like the book.

KA leaves a marker for her next book at the end, as a third lost child is never explained, and we will have to wait to find out her story.  I will no doubt buy this one new as well.  Some books are worth it.


  1. That ending left me hanging -- the coincidences don't bother me a bit, because there is more coincidence in our lives than we can imagine! -- and I wondered, was little Courtney supposed to suggest Madeleine McCann? And Jackson's throw-away comment about the Africa-shaped scar... I am puzzled! But an excellent, excellent read, with very well drawn characters.

  2. Hello Jo! Welcome to Bookblog.I have searched for your profile on OneLondonOne, in vain. Looks like my kind of blog, though!