Tag Archives: Kate Atkinson

A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen

I can heartily recommend When Will There Be Good News? to just about anyone.

Like mysteries or detective fiction? How about novels of manners? Post-modern brain twisters? Surely you like nursery rhymes, at least.

This is the third of Kate Atkinson’s books to feature Jackson “I used to be a police officer” Brodie. Do I wish I had another freakishly good read like Human Croquet? Of course I do. But these are plenty of fun, too, with a distinctly Atkinson humor and humanity.

goodnewsThere’s play on everything from Shakespeare and Greek mythology to Wallace & Gromit, Harry Potter and Toy Stories.  Louise the crusty detective gets to play the part of Mrs. Dalloway, a riff on the perfectly lovely life she’s ended up living. Obviously this life feels like fiction to Louise, who can spot a pretender faster than you can say Holden Caulfield. And the yearnings of Brodie and Monroe must follow the plot of some Bronte or Austen novel (I probably only saw the movie), where twists of fate have lovers marry the wrong people but come together years later.

The narrative is in one sense entirely realistic, with none of the bizarre magical realism of Atkinson’s first two novels. But Atkinson is playing with the coincidences that make for easily satisfying plots. “A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen,” Brodie says. Unbelievable accidents pile up on far-fetched flukes to set the stage, build the plot, and sew things up neatly. And after all, what’s wrong with that? Most of the plot comes full circle, and Atkinson sets the stage for a fourth installment, in which Jackson Brodie and Louise Monroe are unencumbered to connect.



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Happy happy joy joy. I think the good news is now.

Having a good book to look forward to every night makes me incredibly happy. After a week of dutifully trying to read Hot Flat and Crowded, I’ve ditched Friedman . . . (poor Thomas Friedman. His latest has been renedered irrelevant by events of the past few weeks. The first half is about how we’re just living at a pace we can’t sustain and there must be a crash. Yawn — yeah, we know that now. You were right. The second half is about how we can make a buck off of being a leader in sustainability. Pardon me if I don’t have the energy for new endeavors at this point in our economic history) . . . for Atkinson.  Great move on my part.

I’m two chapters into When Will There Be Good News? and loving it from the first pages. It may be the third Jackson Brodie book, the last of which was just a tiny bit disappointing, but it has the easy clarity and fluid energy and downright quirkiness of two of my favorite books on the planet: Behind the Scenes at the Museum and most especially Human Croquet. You get the violence in the family right up front, which should eliminate some dread. But doesn’t, quite. Unfortunately I have about zero reading time ahead of me for a few weeks. But I’ll sure enjoy those few pages each night.

I can tell already I’m going to want to re-read Human Croquet when I finish this one. Anyone up for a book group?


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