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Emotionally Weird [Kindle Edition]

Kate Atkinson
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)

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Book Description

On a peat and heather island off the west coast of Scotland, Effie and her mother Nora take refuge in the large mouldering house of their ancestors and tell each other stories.

Nora, at first, recounts nothing that Effie really wants to hear, like who her father was - variously Jimmy, Jack, or Ernie. Effie tells of her life at college in Dundee, where she lives in a lethargic relationship with Bob, a student who never goes to lectures, seldom gets out of bed, and to whom the Klingons are as real as the French and the Germans (more real than the Luxemburgers).

But strange things are happening. Why is Effie being followed? Why is everyone writing novels? Is someone killing the old people? And where is the mysterious yellow dog?

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Amazon Review

Family history and identity are Kate Atkinson's twinned keynote themes. Behind the Scenes at the Museum (winner of the Whitbread Book of the year), had "The Family" at its centre, a sweep of charming, related genes who sauntered through the fin de siècle to the less glamorous 1992. Her second novel, Human Croquet starred the Fairfaxes, all missing mothers, perfumed with nicotine and danger, and strange aunts. Larkin may be right, your parents fuck you up but in Atkinson's novels you have to find out who they are before you can start laying blame.

On the surface, Emotionally Weird follows the trend. Effie and her mother Nora are staying in the decaying family home on a small island off the West coast of Scotland. To keep themselves amused they begin telling stories. Nora's are about their ancestors, in whose veins blood blue as "delphiniums and lupins" flows, and the real identity of Effie's father and mother. Nora's language is like her "sea-change eyes", full of poetry and strange beauty. Effie's tales of life at the University of Dundee and her life with Star Trek obsessed Bob are more prosaic and funny: "I did so hope that Bob was a dress rehearsal, a kind of mock relationship, like a mock exam, to prepare me for the real thing."

The novel becomes troublesome where it follows Effie to a creative writing course at the university. The class is run by Martha: who writes poetry "with impenetrable syntax about a life where nothing happened." The other characters in the novel are pre-occupied with the same need to find meaning through writing. Archetypal detective stories, sword and sorcery fantasy, doctor and nurse romantic scenarios, existential angst and liberal use of ellipses are given free reign. Whilst this self-conscious wordplay is fun for those who enjoy a more literary book, those who simply enjoy a good read may get lost in the jostle of competing language construction.

In this novel, confused paternity is only part of the struggle for identity, the words you use are also defining- you are what you write. Some readers will revel in the Shandy-esque shape of the experimental in this narrative, others may find it's a literary joke taken too far.--Eithne Farry.


"The lustre, energy and panache of her writing are as striking as ever...Funny, bold and memorable" (Helen Dunmore The Times)

"Beautifully written...brimming with quirky characters and original storytelling. Kate Atkinson has struck gold with this unique offering" (Time Out)

"Sends jolts of pleasure off the page...Atkinson's funniest foray is a work of Dickensian or even Shakespearean plenty" (The Scotsman)

"A truly comic novel - achingly funny in parts - challenging and executed with wit and mischief...hilarious and magical" (Meera Syal Daily Express)

"Her novels are remarkable both in and of themselves, and as evidence of an important emerging body of work from a brilliant and profoundly original writer" (Daily Telegraph)

Product details

More About the Author

Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Her four bestselling novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie became the BBC television series Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs. Her latest novel Life After Life was shortlisted for the Women's (formerly Orange) Prize, the South Bank Sky Arts Literature Award, and won the 2014 Costa Novel Award. She was appointed MBE in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours List, and was voted Waterstones UK Author of the Year at the 2013 Specsavers National Book Awards.

Photography © Martin Hunter

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, I love this book! 7 Oct. 2012
I've had this book for about 8 years and every so often I pick it off the shelf and read it all over again (I've just finished it again for the sixth time). The story Effie tells of her time at Dundee University, her conversations with Nora, and her interactions with and observations of her fellow students are told in an interesting and quirky way by giving each situation its own font. This works very well; when Kevin gives his account of his novel 'The Chronicles of Edrakonia' you can almost hear his thick west-country accent ("..the Duke Thar-Vint on his trusty steed.."). The story flips between her time on the remote Scottish island with Nora, babysitting duties at the McCue household, the drudge of writing her own novel 'The Hand of Fate', her times "chez Bob" and the boring lectures where students read out their own attempts at writing. This style of writing takes a bit of getting used to but the story grows on you and gets better with time. I would recommend at least a second sitting with it.

Once you get to know the characters it is hilarious and by the end very fulfilling. The story is set mainly in Dundee in the midst of a cold, grey winter; knowing Dundee very well and the Scots dialect I connected vividly with her descriptions of the streets, the glib conversations and the constantly changing colours of the Tay ("it took on the hue of molten steel"). Having also been a university student who went through the mundane rounds of boring lectures and 'predicate logic' I really relate to this book (who doesn't remember a 'Bob' from their student days) however I could understand someone who doesn't have this background struggling with it.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's life, Captain... 14 Mar. 2000
By A Customer
Nora and Effie Stuart-Murray are sitting on an island off the west coast of Scotland, telling each other stories. Effie's tale is of her recent life as a student at Dundee University, whilst Nora tells of Effie's murky family history, with the announcement that she is not, in fact, Effie's mother. The hyphenated 'Stuart' is the only clue left that Nora and Effie have royalty as ancestors.
However, you do begin to worry about this novel when Effie's audience, Nora, gets bored and decides to go to bed. If a fictional character has been diagnosed with ennui, then what chance have we of following this novel to its conclusion? We get to see the fascinating acts of feeding cats, the boiling of kettles in Effie's life story, but we do also get occasional glimpses of the invasion of Vietnam. Effie quotes large chunks of Archie McCue's abstract lecture, as if to prove how boring the man is, when one or two words would have sufficed. Archie's lecture appears to happen in real time, and it seems as though Atkinson is writing the antithesis of a crime novel, by having all her main suspects meet up in the beginning, rather than at the end. But Archie McCrue is no detective. Chick Petrie is, and so is Madame Astarti, the heroine of Effie's attempt at fiction. Practically everyone who is anyone turns up at McCrue's lecture, an unlikely scenario for an early morning lecture during a power cut in the strikes of 72.
Emotionally Weird takes a long time to get going. There's something wacky about all the characters, but none of them are truly amusing. In a recent interview in the Observer, Kate Atkinson commented that she found it very difficult to get going on this novel, and to achieve the right tone, and I'm afraid it shows in these early pages.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reader teaser 24 Mar. 2000
In her latest book Kate Atkinson's teases the reader, backtracking and rewriting the plot, killing and resurrecting characters, indulging in word games and supplying her own ongoing critique. When a character says: 'this is absolute, gratuitous nonsense', Effie, the narrator, adds sententiously: 'And so it was.' Characters pick their own adverbs; cliche's come to life (a dog eats an essay); turns of phrase are coldly examined: 'Keep an eye out... Oh, what a horrible idea', and a doorbell cannot ring suddenly without raising the question 'how else?'
While Effie, a student at the University of Dundee, recounts her painfully recognisable tale of student life circa 1972, her mother Nora (who isn't her mother) recounts the tale of Effie's true provenance. The pair are sequestered on a tiny Scottish island, so isolated that they refer to a bigger island nearby as the mainland.Their tales are distinguished by different typefaces, a necessary device as Nora's comments often interrupt Effie's tale, contributing to the ongoing critique. In a creative writing class Effie (an omnipotent narrator) allows a student to read from his fantasy epic (printed in a Gothic font). Nora tells her to stop him as she is wasting words. Effie replies: 'There isn't a finite stock of them'. Nora asks: 'How do you know? You might suddenly just run out and then you won't be able to finish the - '
Among other typefaces - and stories - that make guest appearances are Effie's own contribution to the creative writing class (a seaside-based detective novel), a lecturer's Kafkaesque work and his wife's Mills and Boon prose. Effie's dozy boyfriend throws in the plots of Star Trek and Dr Who.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by joyce islip
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Published 2 months ago by Helley
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably funny
Atkinson is as usual incredibly funny. This book set in academia and plotting a dark family story made me laugh aloud. Such sharp observations, so wittily represented!
Published 2 months ago by Kristina Sjogren
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
what I expected
Published 2 months ago by R.A.M. SMITH
1.0 out of 5 stars I did not like this book at all
I did not like this book at all. I have enjoyed Kate Atkinson's books very much so far and it was disappointing to find I did not enjoy the book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mary Lane
1.0 out of 5 stars I can't take any more!
I have made two attempts to read this really boring book. I'm giving up now after 200 pages. There are so many characters, I can't remember,or even bother to remember, who's who. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mary O'Donovan
5.0 out of 5 stars Took my dog - I love the Jackson Brodie character
Sorry I have not started to read this book yet - but Kate has never let me down - just finished Started Early, Took my dog - I love the Jackson Brodie character
Published 5 months ago by Rita Gregory
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Wierd book, sided title
Published 5 months ago by Douglas Millar
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 7 months ago by NLC
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Brilliant read; had a great laugh, especially as Dundee university is my Alma Marta
Published 8 months ago by cate ashley
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