Kate Atkinson’s work reads like a collection of short stories, but is like a box of Kinder Bueno chocolate eggs.
Surprise 1: A third of the way through, the stories start to collide. Two women drive through the same storm and accident on the M9 highway… A woman dies from a dental procedure, and another story tells why she’s shipped home without a finger… The same actress keeps appearing in magazines…
Surprise 2: The characters are so peculiar they’re memorable. I have trouble remembering characters when they don’t appear for some time, but Atkinson made me remember. Some have unique names like Hawk, Fletcher, Missy. Others experience the same events at the same time. Or go through similar things. Or like watching Green Acres or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Surprise 3: It’s all the result of a fertile imagination. At first, I thought the purpose of the collection was to show how everyone and everything is linked. Sort of a six degrees of separation. The stories get more whimsical and fantastical, and the finale tells why: it’s all stories that Charlene told Trudi to pass time while they’re locked up for the plague. A novel in a novel, if you like.
In that last tale, the despair is punctuated by hope. And that’s where I think the title of the book Not the End of the World comes about. The pair cling on to the things they knew when they were free. They yearn for the time when they can walk through the door. Meanwhile, they fight to stay alive. Kind of what life is like, only a more extreme rendering.
While I may not read this book again, I’m intrigued enough to read Kate Atkinson’s other works. That’s going on my reading list for 2015!
Mimosa’s rating: 3/5