The latest magical mystery tour de force from one of Britain's most original novelists - winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award for Behind the Scenes at the Museum.
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, such as the identity of her real father - 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. But strange things are happening. Why is Effie being followed? Is someone killing the old people? And where is the mysterious yellow dog?
In a brilliant comic narrative which explores the nonsensical nature of language and meaning, Kate Atkinson has created another masterpiece.
As in Behind the Scenes at the Museum and Human Croquet, Atkinson once again uses all her sorcery with language to bedazzle the reader. In essence this is a simple story. Nora and Effie (who might be mother and daughter) are living on an otherwise deserted Scottish island. They are the last of the line of Stuart-Murrays. Student Effie is recuperating from a nasty bout of flu and to relieve the tedium of rainy days and long, dark nights, they tell each other stories which might, or might not, be true. Nora's, brief and uninformative to begin with, are about the family's past ('Grand Guinol, with a pinch of Greek Tragedy'). Effie's graphic, satirical stories are set in the 1970s and revolve around student life and her shiftless friends - interspersed with chunks of her Writing Assignment, which rapidly turns into a crime novel. As always, the story is overflowing with invention, marvellous descriptions, and laugh-aloud jokes. This is, in fact, a novel with a life of its own - a book one could easily be persuaded 'wrote itself' - though on reflection it is carefully controlled, and has its own logic. And at the end all is revealed and all loose ends firmly knotted. There are many loose ends. Who is Effie's father? Who, indeed, her real mother? Who were Nora's parents? Who is following Effie when she's in Dundee and for what reason? Why are so many old people dying in the local retirement home? Don't worry, all will become transparent before the last page is - reluctantly - turned. (Kirkus UK)
Number Of Pages: 496
Published: 1st March 2001
Dimensions (cm): 19.6 x 12.6 x 2.7
Weight (kg): 0.35