This book is amazing. I had read a couple of Kate Atkinson’s books before I got round to this one. Several chapters into it I became bogged down with so many characters and backstory that I couldn’t keep track of things. I put it aside and read Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.
Because I like Atkinson’s writing, and because she won the Whitbread Prize (now Costa Prize) for the book in 1996, I was sure the problem was mine rather than the book’s. I took it with me last weekend and sat in the sun on south bank of Loch Tay and read it from front to back. How did you do it, Kate? I couldn’t put it down. It is the most complicated and challenging novel I have ever read and I loved it.
I have been away, isolated from the Internet for eight whole days (not sure if that is a good or a bad thing, but it explains why my last post on this site is over a week old). In the late 1970s I tried to learn Swedish, I even took lessons. The firm I worked for was tendering for a large (huge, actually) contract in partnership with a Swedish firm, but the contract didn’t materialise. Nor did my Swedish, because I can remember only two words of the language, the words for ‘no’ and ‘nothing’ – so it is just as well that Henning Mankell’s ‘Wallander’ novels have been translated into English. Also Stieg Larsson’s, of course.
I spent most of the week reading Larsson’s ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ and then his ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’. Now I am halfway through ‘The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest’. Each novel is about twice as long as many thrillers I’ve read. Hornets is huge, 746 pages. Are they good? Good…? (Bears, woods and Popes come to mind). The fact that I have been hooked by them so completely speaks for itself. Stunningly good. Very different.
The bad thing is that shortly after delivering these three novels to his publisher, Stieg Larsson died of a massive heart attack. Read more here.