Friday, August 07, 2009

Kate Atkinson: Case Histories and One Good Turn

It was completely by chance that I first saw One Good Turn at the library. I was convinced there was nothing and oh well, maybe I could get a few Agatha Christies anyway. Instead I brought home a pile of ten books, no Christies among them at all. Ha. I saw One Good Turn on the paperback shelf and thought hm, I do like Atkinson, why not? and when I read the back I saw that she'd turned to crime writing, and that this was the second one, so I got the first too and read them in order. And oh, was I impressed with Case Histories. I couldn't put it down and I cried and I cried. This is not crime fiction, this is a novel about crimes, with the red thread of the private investigator Jackson Brodie as a means to tell us the stories of several people who've met with tragedy and pain and loss, all gradually revealed as the book progresses - so that when all is told at the end we find out that some of our presumptions were wrong, altogether. If you like crime fiction at all you must read this book!

While I was reading I was thinking of what to write to convey that feeling of melancholy, the pervading sadness in the novel, but now I've read the second book and another in between so I've lost the words - just trust me, it's worth it. In contrast, the second one is more like a classic crime novel. I think Atkinson might have been playing around with the genre a bit, but I don't think it's a complete success, I'm left feeling a bit "meh" all the same. I didn't love it as much, it felt too much like Part Two, it was more obviously funny in parts, and we weren't confronted with people's personal loss as forcefully as in Case Histories - here, the murders were of people we didn't get to know, and if we did, we didn't like them. I hope the third book swings back, and I hope she doesn't get stuck in a crime series genre. I'll be reading no. 3 as soon as I can, and in the meantime I've got my fingers crossed.


Johanna said...

Are you talking to me now? Is Kate Atkinson the one with the something-museum-book? Ok, now I'm clearly being a bit too thick: She is indeed, according to Google. I didn't like that one as I recall, did you? Maybe I should read it again, non-translated. Or I could just read this one. It appears I should.

(Now I shall shut up.)

bani said...

Well, if the shoe fits.... I liked "museum" novel, if you absolutely HATED the style of writing maybe you'll hate this too. But I don't think so, the crime thing brings it forward. :)