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Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

>> Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Published: 1997
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 348
TBR Challenge #11, 2nds Challenge #2

From the inside cover:

Once upon a time, in far-off England, there was a small village surrounded by a mighty forest, where a dark stranger, one Francis Fairfax, arrived to build a stately home. Fairfax Manor was renowned throughout the land for its feudal pleasures, its visit from the Queen, and the mysterious beauty of Lady Fairfax, who one day cursed the Fairfax name and vanished into the forest, never to be seen again except in a ghostly haze.
Fast-forward to 1960...Over the centuries the forest has been destroyed, and the Fairfaxes have dwindled, too; now they are the local grocers to their suburb of Glebelands, a family as disintegrated as its ancestral home. It is here that young Isobel Fairfax awakens on the morning of her sixteenth birthday, a day that will change everything she knows and understands about her past and her future.
Helping celebrate (if one could call it that) are the members of her strange and distracted family: There is Vinny, Maiden Aunt from Hell; Gordon, Isobel's father, who disappeared for seven years; and Charles, her elder brother, who divides his time between searching for aliens and waiting for the return of their long-gone mother, Eliza.
And back again...As her day progresses, Isobel is pulled into brief time warps and extended periods of omniscience, from the days of the first Fairfax to the roaring twenties to World War II, through which she learns the truth about her family and about her mother, whose disappearance is part of the secret that remains at the heart of the forest.
I kept trying to think of a word to describe this book and I just kept coming back to the words “odd” and “quirky”. This book has moments of humor (both light and quite dark), moments of mystery, moments of heartbreak, and moments of downright strangeness.

The story is intentionally disjointed. The narrative goes back and forth between the present and the past and eventually the reader is completely unsure of which is which. The main character also has a tendency to jump around in time and periodically finds herself in the past which contributes to the sense of time confusion for the reader.

The first ¾ of the book was quirky, but interesting, but the last part turned into something that felt like it came out of a David Lynch movie and just didn’t hold up as well as it could have.


Teddy Rose 11/11/2007 8:40 PM  

It's too bad that this book didn't hold up all the way through. It sounds like it had so much potential. I may have to try it anyway.


SuziQoregon 11/14/2007 11:33 AM  

Teddy Rose: I had the same thing happen with her first book - promising, but finished disappointing.

I've heard great things about Case Histories, though, so maybe I'll give her another try.

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