Saturday, December 27, 2008

#72 - When Will There Be Good News

Having spent the last few days in the whirlwind of the holidays with the added spice of my father's wedding on Xmas eve, of course I conked out with a touch of the flu yesterday. Spent the day in bed with Vicks on my chest and the added pressure of a hot water bottle keeping everything all warm and probably infected. Love the holiday flu. Spirits refused to be dampened as we trundled over to my cousin's for our third, and final, Christmas. It was delightful. The nephew continues to be the funniest little fellow ever. Remember what it was like to just scream for joy at the top of your lungs?

Annnnywaaay, the not-sleeping from the prednisone is working in my favour because I'm getting a lot of reading done. Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News, the third novel to feature Jackson Brodie, kept me company well into Christmas eve when everyone should have been sleeping while awaiting a visit from ye old guy in the red suit. Another brilliantly paced, densely plotted, utterly readable novel from one of the most refreshing writers working in genre fiction today.

Kate Atkinson has a gift with voice. She manages to keep three distinct and different characters alive within the narrative without falling down once in terms of their particular stories. Jackson Brodie's still bent, still broken, and still having trouble with women in this novel, but there's an added tragedy that lands him in Edinburgh. This catastrophic event also causes him to land back into the life of DI Louise Munroe and she encounters him in the oddest of places, stuck in the oddest of situations. Tying them both together is Reggie, a sixteen-year-old girl who hasn't had the easiest of lives, but she's plucky, resourceful and kind of reminds me a little of Thebes.

As the story barrels along, their personal lives gets mixed up in the mystery, Reggie's employer, a doctor who suffered an unspeakable tragedy when she was a young girl, goes missing. Reggie needs to convince DI Munroe that she's actually been kidnapped and Jackson finds himself right smack in the middle after the young girl tears herself into his life. The central mystery in the novel is coupled with a disaster of epic proportions -- a train crash -- that muddles up identities, destroys lives and propels the action in ways that one wouldn't expect. The way its described in the novel conjures up Unbreakable in so much as you can hear the metal as much as the terror in your mind as you read along.

Never trite or contrived, Atkinson's endings are thought out in ways that ensure they're as pragmatic as her prose. The characters don't employ any kind of revolutionary change. They get on with life as life gets on with them and it's Atkinson's refreshingly unadorned style of writing that ensures the success of this novel.

READING CHALLENGES: For a moment I had thought that Atkinson was Scottish, which meant I could have added a country to the Around the World in 52 Books challenge. But as she's British and I've already got England covered, that pipe dream gets washed away with the tide (how about a mixed metaphor for a lazy post-holiday Saturday?).

WHAT'S UP NEXT: From a previous post: "Here's my stack: "A Christmas Carol, The Other Queen, The Given Day, The Plot Against America, Lush Life, Through Black Spruce, The Origin of Species, The Boys in the Trees, The Double, The Almost Moon and Middlemarch." I'm not sure where I'll go next, but it'll be something from the above list."

STRANGE ASIDES: My RRHB and I watched an old Albert Finney film the other day, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which is mentioned in the book. Had we not seen it at the exact moment when we did (moments before crawling into bed with the book), I would have missed the reference completely. Thank you universe.


Marg said...

Kate Atkinson is English, but she lives in Scotland and the book is all set in Scotland!

I really enjoyed this entry in the Jackson Brodie books and was surprised by some of the choices that the author made for her main character. I am really hoping that there will be another Jackson Brodie book!

Melanie said...

I seem to have escaped the Xmas flu this year for a change...knock on wood. But I haven't been nearly as festive as you. Hope you feel better soon!
As for your strange aside, isn't it slightly weird how often those kind of things happen? I sometimes feel like books/art forms are talking to each other and I just happen to overhear.