Monday, October 18, 2010
'Started Early, Took My Dog'- Review
Length: 350 Pages
'1975: 9 April: ' Leeds: ' Motorway City of the Seventies'.
Since Kate Atkinson's latest novel 'Started Early, Took My Dog' came out a few months ago, I have read many reviews about this novel on different book blogs and have been disappointed at not being able to read it myself and give my own opinions. However, now I can.
'Started Early, Took My Dog' is a multi-stranded story which involves Tracy Waterhouse, an ex-policewoman who buys a 4 year old girl from a prostitute, a actress called Tilly who is in the twilight years of her acting career and is showing the first signs of dementia and the murder of a woman in the 1970's. Revolving around all of these elements is Jackson Brodie, a private investigator who is embarking on his own case, trying to find the biological parents of Hope McMaster and, on a personal level, his money swindling ex-wife. If he hadn't got enough on his plate, he also comes into possession of a dog named 'The Ambassador'.
Kate Atkinson is my favourite contemporary author and someone who I greatly admire, in fact, I would love to be able to write like her. Why? Well, Kate Atkinson has the ability to weave many threads of story together, without confusing her readers. Not only that, she doesn't simply add different elements and then tie up some of the ends, but is able to tie up every strand without the reader being left searching for answers. Also what I found with 'Started Early, Took My Dog' was despite having created a complex plot, Atkinson still managed to throw in a few surprise twists which I had not seen coming.
Something else that I think stands Kate Atkinson apart from other writers, is her impeccable characterization. In many of her novels, 'Started Early, Took my Dog' included, there are many characters involved. However all of them, including minor characters, are fully formed and I didn't feel like any of the characters were just 'bit parts' who were only there to carry the story forward. Each character had equal attention to detail.
Kate Atkinson's novels, can be read as stand-alone novels. However what I love about the 'Jackson Brodie' series(this book being the latest installment), is that throughout each novel, the reader learns more about Jackson, his private life and his tragic family history, including the murder of his sister and the suicide of his brother. Atkinson creates a life for Brodie away from each case, so that it doesn't just feel like Jackson is a puppet that she takes out of his box with every investigation and then puts him back when the case is resolved. This is really effective, because if you read the series, then it's like you're on a journey with Jackson and it creates realism and empathy for him as a character.
If Kate Atkinson wasn't just brilliant at crafting convincing characters, her way with words is equally as good. Atkinson conveys humour and subtlety, whilst making the plot easy to understand and all this, encapsulated in a few carefully selected words. What I also love about Kate Atkinson's writing, is her attention to detail. For example, her observations in the character's surroundings, both in the past and present, draw the reader into the world that she creates within her novels.
Kate Atkison's style of writing is clever and accessible to both sexes, I have felt that sometimes, the crime/mystery genre is mostly aimed at men; you may think that this is sexist comment, but that is just my opinion.
'Started Early, Took My Dog' is one of Kate Atkinson's more 'conventional' novels, but her quirky, humourous style shines through. This is a brilliant novel and I would recommend this to everyone, not just readers of crime and mystery.
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