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When Will There Be Good News?: A Novel Paperback – January 11, 2010
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"As a reader, I was charmed. As a novelist, I was staggered by Kate Atkinson's narrative wizardry." ―Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
"Uncategorizable, unputdownable, Atkinson's books are like Agatha Christie mysteries that have burst at the seams-they're taut and intricate but also messy and funny and full of life."
"You don't need to have read the earlier two books to appreciate this one, but I can't think of any reason to deny yourself the delights of all three...The novel satisfies the question in its own title. The answer is: Right here and right now.―Laura Miller, Salon
"Expertly rendered...It is very much to be hoped that Kate Atkinson keeps this gratifying series going."―Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Good news lies on every page of this meticulously plotted and affecting thriller."―Connie Ogle, Miami Herald
About the Author
Kate Atkinson lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, was named Whitbread Book of the Year in the U.K. in 1995, and was followed by Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Not the End of the World, Case Histories and One Good Turn.
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Except, of course, for that nasty post-traumatic stress disorder that clings to her - forever.
This is the past, to which the reader is introduced in When Will There Be Good News?: A Novel, followed by an influx of seemingly unrelated characters - Reggie, who is Dr. Hunter's nanny; Louise, an unhappily-married police officer, fondly recalling a love she almost had, a long time ago; Jackson, married twice and cuckolded by a lover, whose infant child may inadvertently belong to him; and Ms. MacDonald, a former teacher, now retired. Somehow, all of these disparate individuals are connected by at least one common thread.
A train wreck...Indeed, as one character hurtles along on a train headed toward London, or so Jackson believes, it is actually headed toward Edinburgh. When it lurches and turns on its side, its passengers tossed about, everything becomes tangled - literally. When Jackson ends up in hospital, miraculously kept alive by CPR administered by one Reggie Chase, he has the wrong ID on him. This fact sets the tale in a completely different direction.
Unbeknownst to these two characters - Reggie, the nanny, and Jackson, a former police detective - Dr. Hunter and her baby have gone missing. Ah, yes - Dr. Hunter is the former Joanna Mason, the child accidentally left alive by the murderer all those years ago - and to compound the case even further, the murderer, one Andrew Decker, has just been released from prison.
With the alternating storylines and characters, careening toward the answers to so many questions, I kept turning these pages, almost breathless, anticipating the conclusions. And, of course, there are many surprises at the end, which makes this more than an ordinary mystery, or a simple love story, and certainly not a predictable drama.
This writer skillfully teases the reader, pushing and pulling the facts around, until they arrange themselves in such a clever way. I found myself going back to the beginning again, wondering what I might have missed - what clue I had overlooked - in order to have been so stunned by the ending.
I have another of Ms. Atkinson's books on my stack - One Good Turn: A Jolly Murder Mystery - which will receive my attention very soon.
This story opens with a horrifying act of violence involving the family of 6-six year old Joanna, who survives and goes on to become a successful physician - with her own infant son to guard.
"The best days of her life had been when she was pregnant and the baby was still safe inside of her. Once you were out in the world, then the rain fell on your face and the wind lifted your hair and the sun beat down on you and the path stretched ahead of you and evil walked on it."
Sixteen-year-old Reggie works for Dr. Joanna Hunter as a nanny, caring for her infant son and her dog Sadie. Reggie determines that Joanna has turned up missing and alerts Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe (yes, the same Louise Monroe from One Good Turn) and in a coincidental meeting, engages Jackson Brodie in the missing persons search. After serving 30 years in prison, the murderer of Joanna's family is released and some believe he is related to Joanna turning up missing.
The chance connection between Jackson Brodie and Louise Monroe and the resultant relationship tension - is the highlight of this novel. Both jumped into separate marriages in haste (after they thought the other had chosen someone else) and now question the path they are on especially after the chance encounter.
"She (Louise) hadn't expected ever to hit forty and suddenly find herself in a two-car family, to be living in an expensive flat, to be wearing a rock the size of Gibraltar. Most people would see this as a goal or an improvement but Louise felt as if she might have taken the wrong road without even noticing the turning."
As the Guardian appropriately describes Atkinson's work, it is "funny, bracingly intelligent and delightfully prickly." An example:
"His Daughter (Jackson's) had recently announced her conversion to the vegetarian cause. In a word association test his automatic response to the word `lamb' would be `mint-sauce.' Marlee's would be `innocent.' The slaughter of. She was being brought up as an atheist, but she spoke the language of martyrs."
1)Atkinson shares some moving insights and passages as to surviving - life, death, tragedy, the past, present and future. Her prose is plain-spoken, colorful, funny and intelligent.
2) Atkinson's character and story construction involving Jackson and Louise Munro - have her at her best. Both are solid likeable characters even if they are searching and generally unhappy. Atkinson gets you into their minds as to what they are thinking and feeling with deep character insights and reflections on life, death, sorrow, regrets and losses. Reggie, one of the heroines in the story, on the other hand, was not all that believable.
3) The stage setting for the story takes a whopping 200 pages (1/2 of the book) and weaves back and forth - with multiple characters and plot lines. By the time the set up was done, I had lost substantial interest.
4) TOO MANY. Too many characters. Too many story lines - some of which converge elegantly - while others are hurried and thinly closed out. Too many coincidences - far too many to be believable. And, finally too many tragedies involving the principal characters. Novel may best be described as a "melee."
My 3 stars for this novel are for Atkinson's exceptionally clever characterization - her depiction and insights into life's struggles and tragedies woven into a crime fiction story - and that I found many passages to be mordantly funny.
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Lots of twists