Minor Spoilers Below
By some celestial alignment and confluence of book lists, I read two Kate Atkinson books in a row - Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which I've already reviewed and very much enjoyed, and this one. I don't like this one nearly as much.
there are still the turns of phrase I liked, and her characters
continue to be interesting, the sense of using gimmick when it isn't
needed has only grown. I would like to think that as she becomes more
comfortable as a writer, she would rely less on gimmicks like amnesia
and overwrought coincidences (I'm all for a good synchronicity, but
there are limits.) (Also that
the main character's new wife, who I've never met - she may have
appeared in a previous book - suddenly turns out to be a conwoman. I'm
really not sure what that added to the book.)
Which is a shame, because there are bits of When Will There Be Good News?
that I liked a lot. But they never quite knit together and became
something more. As a result, the book is fine but messy, and not in a
This one seems to have the theme of surviving trauma.
There's Reggie, the 16-year-old who looks 12, who lost her mother. (She
also actually sounds twelve, so I'm not sure why Atkinson didn't just
make her twelve.) There's Dr. Hunter, who survived unimaginable terror
as a girl, and disappears for most of the novel. There's the hard-bitten
cop, Louise, who has seen too many bad cases, and is trapped in a
marriage with a man who seems really quite nice. (This is not a bad
plotline, being married to the wrong person, even though they're lovely.
But you have to do something with it.)
And there's the
detective, Jackson Brodie, whose sister was murdered, whose brother
committed suicide, who is badly injured at the start of the book, and
doggedly tailed by Reggie, who wants him to look into Dr. Hunter's
disappearance. (Brodie is or was, I guess, a private detective.)
lots about trust between husbands and wives, and husbands who abuse
their wives' trust. There's a lot about loss. There's a lot about being
the public face of loss. And these things are all interesting, the
elements are all good, they just don't knit together into much.