Emotionally Weird – Kate Atkinson

I bought this book in my favorite second-hand bookstore, where every book is made equal and every book costs just 1GBP. What’s not to love?

It is a weird book, I think I liked it, but I’m not sure, just as nothing is certain in the book, all is a bit fuzzy around the edges. Nora and Effie, mother and daughter, on an isolated island in Scotland tell each other stories. Or rather Effie tells her mother a story in order to pry a one back. Effie tells a completely crazy story of her days studying in Dundee, what she wants back is a story of her origins, she knows nothing of her father and her childhood with her mother was spent moving from one seaside town to another. As Effie’s story progresses and slides more and more into absurd Nora offers bits and pieces of her own tale. There is a lot of metatextual play, stories within stories, at some point we realize all of them are made up. Everyone in Effie’s story also writes a novel and we get glimpses of those as well. Reality is suspended, the only thing that matters is the story.

This is exactly what makes me a bit indifferent towards this book, I was never a fan of ‘meta’, I’m more inclined to classical story-telling. I like to immerse myself in the fiction world, but here it was impossible, because every time I did the rug was pulled from under me and the reality and rules of the world were reset. I felt like it was all at arm’s length, distanced, I could not start caring about the characters. Which makes sense if your narrator is telling you a made up story and very quickly reveals it. Effie’s story is just means to na end and that’s how it reads. That’s not to say it is not entertaining in its quirckiness, it was very interesting what a writer can do when they give up the pretence of reality and just let themselves go, but it’s not emotionally involving. For me this book was an interesting and well executed exercise in form, but I still don’t see the purpose. It read fine and I think I’ll have no problem forgetting it, just one of those books that come and go.

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4 thoughts on “Emotionally Weird – Kate Atkinson

  1. Pingback: October round-up – bookskeptic.com

  2. I’ve had this book on my shelf for a long time (bought at some point at a thrift store, I’m sure). I’m drawn to the Scottish Island setting, but not sure if that’s enough to keep me interested. I’ll keep it a while longer, though, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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