Kate Atkinson – Started Early Took My Dog

I started Early – Took my Dog –

And visited the Sea –

The Mermaids in the Basement

Came out to look at me –

And Frigates – in the Upper Floor

Extended Hempen Hands –

Presuming Me to be a Mouse –

Aground – opon the Sands –

I did say I would be reading another Kate Atkinson – so I picked this up off the shelves where it had been left unfinished by a previous reader.  It’s a detective novel – sort of – so if you’ve followed this blog you’ll know that’s not my favourite genre.

Kate Atkinson is an interesting writer, and if this is detective fiction, the detective doesn’t fit into the Henning Mankel / Inspector Morse pattern – becoming a better person by reading opera.  Jackson Brodie is a fan of Emily Dickinson – a very unusual choice for a macho detective.  So – he becomes a better person by reading Emily Dickinson?  Not really – but the words of Dickinson’s poems recur sporadically, and quite rarely throughout, offering an unusual element to this story, and the novel concludes with a complete Dickinson poem.  Interesting.

The plot is complex – well it seemed that to me, and there were times when I was a bit confused about which Yorkshire detective was which – a bit like a Russian novel there then.  There are sufficient red herrings to maintain interest, and lots of incident and action.  I pursued it, and enjoyed it to the end.  Atkinson narrates the interior of each of these very different characters in a way that echoes the qualities I’d recognised in Emotionally Weird: original, evocative, imaginative, but less wild, less funny.  Some characters are more interesting than others.  My favourite was the little girl – but we never get to see what she is thinking!

I did prefer Emotionally Weird, but maybe, one day, I would read another Jackson Brodie novel.  This tackles a difficult topic with humour and wit.  It must have been challenging to show the differing viewpoints of the characters, but at the same time this narrative structure affected the coherence of the novel, for me.

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