Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite authors (Life After Life is possibly my favourite book EVER) and I thought I’d read all of her books, so I was pleasantly surprised recently to discover a couple that I hadn’t read, including Human Croquet.
Set in the 1960s, It is the story of 16 year old Isobel Fairfax, an awkward and often lonely teenager raised variously by her mother, father, aunt, grandmother and stepmother.
Her mother disappeared when she was a child and she and her brother, Charles, wait for her return and never give up hope that she will come back.
Isobel starts to slip in and out of different parts of her life, at first momentarily, but then for longer periods, until she is no longer sure what is ‘real’. Who will be alive and who will be dead today? Unable to tell anyone about this phenomenon, she fears she may be going mad.
After a very weird epilogue (don’t be put off by it, it gets so much better!), the book moves between present and past, so the reader can piece together a little of the life of Isobel’s mother, Eliza. Eliza was mysterious, maybe too adventurous for Isobel’s staid father, Gordon, and definitely too exotic for her aunt and grandmother.
Kate Atkinson really is a brilliant writer and this is another very special book from her. Her writing is unlike anyone else’s I’ve read and, although a literary novel, it isn’t particularly hard to read and is both moving and at times humorous. Anyone who has read Life After Life will recognise the time travel elements of Human Croquet.
If you want to get your teeth into book which is entertaining, but also has a lot of substance, I would strongly recommend Human Croquet. In fact, I would strongly recommend any of Kate Atkinson’s novels (but do read Life After Life before A God in Ruins).