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Not the End of the World Paperback – October 27, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (October 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316159379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316159371
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #587,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Atkinson, who began her career with Behind the Scenes at the Museum, a Whitbread Book of the Year, and enjoyed good reviews for two more novels, now gathers together this suite of comparatively loosely connected stories. Atkinson's work has grown increasingly diffuse; her most recent book, Emotionally Weird, was printed in three fonts, representing separate strings of narrative. This collection takes that conceit without the typesetting extravagance one step further, opening and closing on two women who seem to tell one another the intervening tales. Atkinson's Scheherazades, singletons of indeterminate age named Charlene and Trudi, appear first in "a food hall as vast as a small city," and by the book's end which may or may not be the end of the world they're starving to death in a squalid, freezing flat in what feels like an apocalyptic present. In the women's restless imaginations, readers meet more than one girlfriend (in different stories, and each unbeknownst to the other) of a man named Hawk; a gaggle of perfect-toothed American Zane sisters; and a governess who may or may not be a goddess. Some of Atkinson's devices a giant cat who impregnates a woman with kittens, an evil twin who gets to have all the fun make for stories as simple as fables, but some, like the nanny goddess and the virtuoso, multiple-voiced "Dissonance," are sharp and memorable, full of astutely observed family dynamics. While not as intense or as unified as Atkinson's full-length work, this is a sharp and wholly original collection.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Although they don't carry quite the emotional weight of George Saunders' brilliant stories (CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, 1996), Atkinson's exceptionally entertaining tales display the same wild inventiveness. Sometimes the same characters and images (she is especially fond of wolf-skin gloves and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) recur in the 12 stories collected here, which, in the main, feature delightfully witty people marshaling their resources to confront a world that often disappoints. In "Unseen Translation," a nanny who resembles a "Marine Corps Mary Poppins" spirits eight-year-old Arthur away from his wealthy, neglectful parents. In the more somber "Sheer Big Waste of Love," Addison Fox, whose mother was a prostitute, carries with him the memory of being violently rejected by his wealthy father; however, an encounter with the man's legitimate children makes him realize things could have been much worse. Other titles feature people coping with the end of the world by going shopping and a woman killed in a car wreck who finds she is invisible, housebound, and addicted to Oprah. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Kate Atkinson's first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award. She has been a critically acclaimed, bestselling author ever since, with over one million copies of her books in print in the United States.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News?, and Started Early, Took My Dog. Case Histories, which introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, was made into a television series starring Jason Isaacs.

Kate Atkinson lives in Edinburgh.

Customer Reviews

I will eagerly await whatever she writes next.
Michele E. Duckert
I guess that "Not the End of the World" is a collection of short stories...the three chapters I managed to read were not cohesive at all.
Rachel N De For
Atkinson's books tend to deal with dark subjects but the humor and the vividly drawn characters leave the reader exhilarated.
J. Lawson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on February 20, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The more I think about Not the End of the World, the more the book seems to mean to me. Generally, the progress works the other way around. It says a lot about Atkinson as a writer how powerfully the book manages to keep a hold on my mind.

Atkinson creates a layered confection of characters both real and mythic. They live in a time just bordering the apocalypse. The world in which they live is often shallow and full of troubles, but is beautiful in contrast to the great pit of nothing waiting past the implied boundary. It is not an uplifting book, and when I finished it I was left with a feeling of bleakness. This is time out of time, and it is more frightening than hopeful.

While I do not expect a book to give up its secrets too easily, it did sometimes feel as though Atkinson were being deliberately obscure. Several of the stories had the feel of letters that you find in the street, or a conversation half heard around the corner. She was not generous with the doors into to the developing project of the book. As a reader, there were times when I would have appreciated just a wee bit more transparency.

This is the first Atkinson that I have read. It will not be the last.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By on December 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'm willing to bet that Kate Atkinson didn't color inside the lines when she was a little girl. She's a born subversive, and her charming, alarming, crazy quilt fiction catches the reader off-balance. "Normal" categories get messed with: Realism morphs without warning into fantasy; past, present and future are melded and skewed; people are never quite what they seem. These qualities shone in her first and most brilliant book, BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM (the Whitbread Book of the Year in 1995), as well as in two other novels (HUMAN CROQUET and EMOTIONALLY WEIRD), and they are equally evident in NOT THE END OF THE WORLD, a collection of 12 stories.
The narratives are neither clearly connected nor totally distinct (Atkinson doesn't do anything conventionally). Occasionally she recycles characters: The sullen adolescents whom she evokes with absolutely perfect pitch in "Dissonance" reappear, a few years older but still obnoxious, in "Wedding Favors." More frequently, though, a featured player in one story becomes a peripheral character in another; members of the Zane family, a large American clan, thread their way in and out of several tales, as do a self-absorbed celebrity mom and a nanny who is a worthy successor to Mary Poppins. Detecting these links is wonderfully diverting for the reader --- kind of like a Chinese puzzle --- and it also has the effect of unifying the collection. Atkinson's people all seem to inhabit more or less the same eccentric universe, which is Scotland (she lives in Edinburgh) and at the same time another place: more mysterious, less nameable.
Usually I prefer my "magical" and my "realism" well separated, like carrots and peas on a dinner plate.
Read more ›
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By FictionAddiction.NET on May 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Not the End of the World is an anthology of loosely related pieces. These stories all drift around the common theme of the End of the World. Whether it is on a global scale, or simply changing one's path through life, these World Ending events are never addressed directly. Like so many people, the characters in "Not the End of the World," rarely meet their fate directly. Then again, events that often appear to be the End of the World are not really the end of the world at all.
In keeping with the theme of not facing an event directly, what is most intriguing about these pieces is not the central plot, but rather the peripheral occurrences. For example, in the first piece "Charlene and Trudi Go Shopping," the plot is summed up by the first sentence, "'I want,' Charlene said to Trudi, 'to buy my mother a birthday present.'" In the end, Charlene finds a present; however, that is not what is fascinating about the story. What is fascinating are the details in the periphery hinting that the end of the world is nigh. It is a world where men see how drunk they can get before the curfew, bombs explode in the distance and the city runs out of diesel and gin. But these details do not directly relate to the selection of a birthday present.
In the subsequent pieces, the intriguing peripheral aspects come in the form of defining a larger picture. How are these vignettes related? On the surface, these pieces are related through the relationships between the characters of each story. There is though a deeper relationship, just waiting for reader to tease it out.
Despite the lack of a emphasis on plot, this collection is continuously fascinating. What "Not the End of the World," has to say about life is not something that can be easily expressed. Like any good magician, Kate Atkinson does not reveal how she performs her tricks.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By shoemuse on January 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It wasn't until I read the reviews here about "Not the End of the World" that I "got" what Kate Atkinson was trying to do. I went back and re-read the book with an eye toward the myths and the wrapping together of several characters across different stories. To be honest, even the second time around I was not that impressed with the stories. Yes, Kate Atkinson has a unique voice, one I loved in "Behind the Scenes at the Museum". Here, though, I felt like there was an inside conceit that was inaccessible to the reader. It's been a while since I took Latin, so it would've been nice to have the quotes translated. Atkinson teases us with characters that I would've liked to have seen more developed. It was difficult to muster up sympathy for the characters. Overall, if you are a fan of Atkinson's writing I'd say buy this. If you are approaching Atkinson for the first time, you are better starting with "Behind the Scenes at the Museum."
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