I only know Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life that I read two years ago and enjoyed a lot. This is why when I saw beautiful hardback edition of Not The end of the World in a charity shop I couldn’t help myself and got it.
It’s a collection of twelve short stories, they are separate but some characters appear in more than one story. The first and last story is actually one and the same that seems to have been interrupted by the other ten. Or maybe Charlene and Trudi are just telling each other the ten stories as the world around them collapses and they try to keep impressions of normality.
The stories are not all even, but they all share some themes: transformation, life being more than just touchable reality, relations between children and parents. Another theme that is woven into the fabric of every story are the references to Greek mythology or to Greece itself. Characters are interesting, even if short story form does not let them fully develop. We have a super-nanny dreaming of a perfect child she could create, a woman stealing a secret of immortality, a man coming to terms with the fact his father abandoned him when he has his own children, a woman that died, but was still ageing, a man that has a doppelganger. It’s all in the world like ours, but a tiny bit different, as if earth moved a bit of axis.
It was a very enjoyable read, even if I liked some stories more than others. I’m sure the physical form of the book also helped, beautiful thick paper, nice big print (I think I’m getting blinder I noticed I tend to avoid books with small print, they exhaust me), every story starting with its dedicated illustration and quote, it’s this attention to detail that is so often lacking in modern books and that really makes all the difference (not that I don’t read e-books).
Below are few quotes to give you the taste of the writing, a bit ironic and distanced but never cold toward the characters.
And also June could see that once you were thirty – which she was three weeks ago – it was probably time to stop holding your parents responsible for all the things that had gone wrong in your life.
Meredith had gone through life borrowing other people’s personalities rather than going to the trouble of developing her own. She found it was a good way of avoiding the anguished introspection that most people seemed prey to.
She could hardly breathe, as if the bearded man had taken all of her breath and left her none. She thought she was giving him the gift of life but now it felt as if it was the other way around. And anyway she wasn’t sure she wanted the gift of life. Or the gift of death. She didn’t want that kind of power, she didn’t want to be like a god. What the fuck would she do with that kind of responsibility? She walked quickly, the tears rolling down her face, unchecked.
He really didn’t know if he could take the lifetime of worry that lay ahead of him now that he had a child.
It seemed particularly unfair that she was both dead and getting older.
Your children were like a knot of fear that you carried around inside you all the time.
Pam thought she was more likely to kill Maggie than ever make a successful bomboniere.
How much does the physical form of a book matter to you? What was the last book that you bought because you liked the cover? Was it as interesting as you expected?
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska