Throwback Thursday: Josephine's Book Edition

Happy Thursday! This week is a good week because bank holiday. I love a four day week.

It’s all a bit general election everywhere right now isn’t it. I had to hide in my upstairs yesterday in order to avoid the UKIP canvassers on my road. Like I’d open the door to them, never mind give them my vote. However, a political rant this is not, all you probably need to know really is that I do take my right to vote very seriously. I think it matters. & that is that.

Today in honour of the publication of the new Kate Atkinson (I’m so excited. Dance with me?) I am reminiscing about the first of her books I ever read: Not the End of the World. Which, well, it pretty much solidified Kate as one of my faves and guaranteed that I will always buy any book she ever writes ever because she has an amazing brain. This book, I think, is perhaps only beaten by Life After Life at highlighting that fact. Seriously, so damn clever. It’s also probably quite surprising to somebody who comes to Atkinson having only read her Jackson Brodie books, because, well those books are all kinds of fabulous but they are absolute worlds apart from this one. As in, they could have been written by a different person entirely and excuse me whilst I fangirl a little but that versatility is what makes Kate Atkinson so damn good.

Not the End of the World is a short story collection, where each story stands alone but is also somehow linked to another, wherein myth and reality make for strange partners and the lines are delightfully blurred. It’s so good. So very good. It’s kind of like you get hit with this lightbulb moment part way through, where you’re reading away, and just loving the whole thing and then you think ‘woah, hang on just a minute’ as you realise that there’s this connection between this story and that and it adds this whole new dimension to the whole thing, trying to work out what the connections are and what they mean and how this fact from this story is going to impact your interpretation of another. It’s like reading an awesome crazy collection of stories and simultaneously reading a super cleverly thought out novel. It’s like a puzzle – spotting the links kind of becomes like a game.

The collection starts and ends with a story about two girls – Trudi and Charlene – and even though it’s never explicitly mentioned, the girls are the thread that ties the whole thing together so cleverly. Their world is the one the title refers to I think – Trudi and Charlene’s world is ending, actually, falling apart even as they carry on with a shopping trip and it’s that, the whole ‘lets keep making a shopping list though there’s a boatload of zoo animals roaming the streets’ that kind of makes you realise that something pretty special is going to follow.

It does.

The 11 following stories are equally surreal, and equally random and equally fabulous and all full of clever references to mythology – like the mother who remembers being dragged underwater and raped by Poseidon for example. I know, mental right. It’s like constant nods to the myths you know but holy smokes, not as you know them.  Perhaps you could view it as a study in mythology – like, is there any relevance to all that stuff now, and how does it fit in with the world as we see it

It’s kind of like writing this, Atkinson sort of thought ‘fuck it, I’m not going to stick to writing in the way people expect books to be written, I’m just going to do the thing my own way and people can love it or hate it’; it reads like she had a blast writing it and you know, somehow to step outside of the expected like that feels kind of brave. I like brave. I like the way Kate Atkinson plays with words and themes and concepts. I also really like this book.