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Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson - Book Review


Emotionally Weird
Kate Atkinson
Black Swan

Fiction-Net Rating 4 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

On a peat and heather island off the west coast of Scotland, Effie and her mother Nora take refuge in the large mouldering house of their ancestors and tell each other stories. Nora, at first, recounts nothing that Effie really wants to hear, like who her father was - variously Jimmy, Jack or Ernie. Effie tells of her life at college in Dundee, the land of cakes and William Wallace, where she lives in a lethargic relationship with Bob, a student who never goes to lectures, seldom gets out of bed, and to whom the Klingons are as real as the French and the Germans (more real than the Luxemburgers). But strange things are happening. Why is Effie being followed? Is someone killing the old people? And where is the mysterious yellow dog?

We Say

The first thing to say about Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson is that the title is a pretty accurate summing up of what to expect - it plays on different emotions and in a very weird way. This is brave novel - one that is prepared to fool around, subvert genres and expectation and try something completely new. Thankfully, it's a gamble that pays off and this is probably one the most fun books I've read in a while.

The narrative structure has the two main characters telling each other stories. Nora's story is a family saga - but it is told reluctantly and the revelations come slowly, unlike in the usual method of recounting these kinds of tales. Effie, her daughter, tells her story almost like a fiction, something she has made up. She throws in bizarre coincidences, extreme comic characters and piles events on top of one another. It certainly takes a while to get used to this style and to accept that this is not conventional fiction as we know it. The two voices are entirely distinct and the two settings provided are worlds apart. But this is just another way for Kate Atkinson to throw out a challenge to her readers. She has broken the rules but wants you enjoy the rebellion with her. And I did. The results are intriguing, funny and effective.

With all this 'wackiness' you may suspect that there is little substance to this book. On the contrary, it becomes clear that all of the strange things that happen are important and relevant. The underlying themes have realism at their core and it is to be praised that Kate Atkinson makes such light and enjoyable work of putting them across.

With great comic characters and plot with a few surprises, Emotionally Weird is to be recommended as long as you're prepared to take on its innovative style.

Review by: Rachel Taylor

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