Kate Atkinson is one of my absolute favourite authors (her novel Life After Life is literally one of the best books ever written). So I was very pleased earlier this year when I realised I hadn’t actually read all of her books and came across Emotionally Weird and Human Croquet.
Effie is on a deserted Scottish island in a cold house with her mother, Nora. With nothing else to entertain themselves, they tell each other stories.
Much of the book is Effie relating her life at university in Dundee. A large cast of students, lecturers and others appear in the story as Effie drifts through life, handing essays in late, trying to skip lectures and wondering why she is still with her slacker boyfriend, Bob. A private detective keeps picking her up in his car, a yellow dog has disappeared and people keep ending up in hospital. As they are telling their stories, it’s not quite clear how much of Effie’s story is ‘real’ and how much is made up for Nora’s entertainment.
While Effie’s story was amusing and entertaining, I did find myself wondering at times where exactly it was leading to.
During the telling of Effie’s story, her mother interjects with her own story and gradually we piece together both Nora and Effie’s lives.
But they aren’t the only stories in the book – everyone seems to be writing a novel and snippets of their novels appear throughout the book. Helpfully, all the different strands of story have their own typeface, so it’s easier to remember what is what and whose is whose.
It’s only towards the end of the book when the whole story comes together and you realise where it really was leading too.
Emotionally Weird is on some levels an easy read, but on others, it’s quite challenging. It isn’t Kate Atkinson’s best, but ‘not Kate Atkinson’s best’ is still vastly superior to most novels you will read. I for one certainly enjoyed it!