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Emotionally Weird [Hardcover]

Kate Atkinson
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jun 2000
On an island off the coast of Scotland, Effie and her mother Nora take refuge in the mouldering house of their ancestors and tell each other stories. But strange things are happening. Why is Effie being followed? Is someone killing the old people? And where is the mysterious yellow dog?
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; 1 edition (Jun 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312203241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312203245
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,697,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Product Description

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


" 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 yet... a work of Dickensian or even Shakespearean plenty." - " The Scotsman" " Funny, bold and memorable." - "The Times" "From the Trade Paperback edition." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I can't go on any longer ..... 6 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having read all of Kate Atkinson's other novels on Kindle, Emotionally Weird was the only one left. I began with the brilliant and poignant Life after Life, then the riveting Jackson Brodie stories, Human Croquet had me hooked, and I began to get slightly anxious as I approached the final unread Atkinson book. I have loved all Kate's work until now. Perhaps I was expecting too much. Had I read Emotionally Weird first, I would most likely have never read the rest of Kate Atkinson's books. I have read about one quarter of the book, perhaps less, although it seems like so much more. I just can't read a page without skim-reading over most of it, and my eyes seem to glaze over. I can't concentrate, and therefore can't understand plot nor characters. To be blunt, I have found it incredibly boring. Why Kate Atkinson wrote this book, I'm not sure, when the others were riveting and thought-provoking. This is where I admit defeat. I have tried my damnedest to get into this book, but I just can't go on with it, when there are other more enjoyable stories waiting to be read. It feels like I've wasted time trying, and I've emerged feeling disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Self-consciously contrived 27 Sep 2012
Having loved Atkinson's other books, I was shocked by how poor this one is, & only managed to persevere to page 94. It reads as a self-conscious, rather cold-blooded exercise or experiment - what I can only suppose is some kind of attempt at post-modern picaresque - but is so unoriginal, contrived & crowded that it falls on its face. There is nothing here that hasn't been done before, more successfully. In her attempt to be, what - innovative, 'playfully' self-referential? - she has thrown every literary device & gimmick into the pot. Much of the book is set in the studenty seventies when structuralism was at its height, & overall the novel feels as if it belongs there, like the over-ambitous 'literary' effort of a mediocre 70's student. So strongly did I feel this at times that I even began to wonder if the whole thing was a hoax; someone here pointed out that as the book progresses the main narrative sometimes lapses into the kind of junk prose exemplified by the Madame Astarti story, & this is true. Perhaps this is deliberate... another joke?
That is not to say she cannot turn a beautifully crafted sentence - we know she can - or to deny that there are felicitous passages, but this attempt to mix the absurd, the comic novel, realism, magic realism, & cut & paste examples of various genres into a coherent form is clumsy, especially as it rather lists into sentimentality, perhaps the worst of all literary sins.
The novel is clever, too clever & contrived, & one of the results of this is that the characters are unreal, unsympathetic vehicles in unconvincing plots which fail to come off the page. Although it is sometimes amusing, many of Atkinson's jokes are embarrassingly bad. I simply did not get the Watson Grant/Grant Watson joke..or perhaps I did, & it went'clunk'.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't be put off by negative comments
Terrific writing as usual. Don't let the comments about structuralism and lack of narrative stop you buying it. Read more
Published 8 days ago by A. Mackay
1.0 out of 5 stars Very weird and boring
Oh dear after reading all Kate Atkinson Books and loving them couldn't get to grips with this one at all. In fact I'm not going to finish it. Life's too short
Published 16 days ago by V. M. Rowlinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Clever
After a slow start, Emotionally Weird became a book I really enjoyed. The 1970s university life seemed very authentic and familiar! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another fabulous story!
Kate Atkinson has a rare quality of making you want to read more and more, and you really do associate with the characters in her books! Read more
Published 2 months ago by A. R. Hughes
4.0 out of 5 stars Did I like it - hmmmm
Well, I just don't know. I finished this a few days ago and I am still trying to make up my mind. I have enjoyed all the other Atkinson books I have read and I enjoyed this -... Read more
Published 4 months ago by D. M. Dickson
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, funny, clever book!
I don't really know why some of the other reviewers didn't "get" this book - I thought it was one of the best books I've ever read. I loved it! Read more
Published 4 months ago by Barbara Marshall
2.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally Weird
Strange story from Kate Atkinson. I found this difficult to get in to. I am reading it but not convinced. Sorry Kate
Published 5 months ago by Jean Mole
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great read - although i would say that - Anything by Kate's...
It's a terrific Read altho slightly dated now.

I loved the viewpoint and the awful college attitudes perhaps students' today would find it
a little dated BUT it's... Read more
Published 5 months ago by RoseMarie
5.0 out of 5 stars this was a gift and the recipient was pleased with it. so overall,...
this was a gift and the recipient was pleased with it. so overall, pleased that I bought this and the price was compitive.
Published 6 months ago by ruth davies
3.0 out of 5 stars Not up to her previous books
This is disjointed and has far too many characters (who are they all?) the characters are not explored and built up because it jumps between them and scenarios. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Dilys King
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