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Human Croquet [Kindle Edition]

Kate Atkinson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Once it had been the great forest of Lythe. And here, in the beginning, lived the Fairfaxes, grandly, at Fairfax Manor.

But over the centuries the forest had been destroyed, replaced by Streets of Trees. The Fairfaxes have dwindled too; now they live in 'Arden' at the end of Hawthorne Close and are hardly a family at all.

But Isobel Fairfax, who drops into pockets of time and out again, knows about the past. She is sixteen and waiting for the return of her mother - the thin, dangerous Eliza with her scent of nicotine, Arpège and sex, whose disappearance is part of the mystery that still remains at the heart of the forest.

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Product Description


“Patricia Hodge’s bossy plumminess is perfectly suited to the offbeat text.”
Irish Times 3/5/97

Book Description

The brilliant second novel from the author of the Whitbread prizewinner Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Now on CD

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1126 KB
  • Print Length: 386 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital; New jacket edition (6 July 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003U6Z5Y2
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #13,975 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like a modern Fay Weldon 23 July 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having been a fan of the Jackson Brodie books over the last 3 years or so, and having been bowled over subsequently by Behind the Scenes at the Museum, I realised belatedly that Kate Atkinson had been writing for years and decided to go to her earlier books, starting with Human Croquet. (Emotionally Weird is on the bedside cabinet awaiting its turn!) I was struck by how different her writing style was in her earlier days of authorship and felt almost as though I was reading some 80's Fay Weldon. (That, by the way, is not a bad thing as I have been a big fan of Fay Weldon all my adult life.) There is a difference in the grammatical quality, though, which having attending an old fashioned, strict grammar school in the 70s and 80s always troubles me. I sometimes find myself brought up short by what I've been taught is 'not a proper sentence', or incorrect punctuation. I realise that's not a problem for everyone, though, and that I need to acknowledge these rules change because it's a living language. As far as character and plot line and intrigue and humour and things that moved me almost to tears on occasion, this book hits the nail on the head. Nearly finished it now, so absorbed in what's emerging, how things are dovetailing (all the characteristics of Kate Atkinson novels!), this book is NOT disappointing me and am thoroughly enjoying it. Would recommend!
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting novel let down by a poor ending 5 Oct. 2009
By I Read, Therefore I Blog VINE VOICE
Isobel lives with her geeky brother, Charles, father Gordon, step-mother Debbie and awful aunt Vinny in a large house in a small town. All are overshadowed by the disappearance of Isobel's mother, the exotic and dangerous Eliza, who oozed sex appeal wherever she went. When Isobel begins to experience time-shifts that see her jump to different periods in her family history, she begins to unravel the mystery of her mother's disappearance and in the process, discovers who she is herself.

There's much to admire in this novel, which begins with the very creation of the world and finishes with its destruction. Atkinson skillfully weaves in the family history of the Fairfax history through its legends and ups and downs before settling on Isobel and her strange kin. Set mainly in the 1960s there is much attention paid to period detail, notably within the language and references of the time, although Isobel somehow sounds a little too old and middle-aged to be truly convincing as a heroine.

Easily the strongest character is Eliza, with her bitchy comments and sensuous appeal, whose disappearance has cast a pall over the whole family and particularly her husband Gordan, who disappears to New Zealand to escape it, leaving his children in the care of his sister and mother. Vinny herself is an amusing and bitchy grotesque, blind as to her own limitations and bitter about the poor hand that life has dealt her. The novel is at its most fun when she is on the page.

Atkinson keeps a firm grip on her time-shifts and while some of the scenes are a little disorientating, she pulls them together at the end, which ironically was the part of the book that I had the biggest problem with.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I enjoyed this book particularly the start and finish, although found that the middle section seemed to drag a little but couldn't really decide the reason.
The location and period setting at the beginning is very unusual for a novel and worked very well in the context of the rest of the book.
I loved that, as the reader, I felt completely inside Isobel's head with all the little thoughts and worries that she has, along with the way that she deals with the time travelling events that seem to happen around her.
Time is an important theme of the book and the jumping between Present and Past throughout the book gives support to Isobel's strange experiences of time travel.
I enjoyed the technique of showing Eliza's speech in italics which had the effect of showing her as a magical, mysterious person.
The tone of the book seems to change in the middle and it became more franctic and "madder". Once I changed my approach to the reading then I enjoyed the ending but I did find the change unsettling at first.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stop the time travel! 12 Aug. 2014
What is it with Kate Atkinson and time travel and giving numerous different versions of what might have been. This is very like Life after Life where you end up not knowing what is real and what is unreal. Anything can happen because in the next paragraph you realise that the character has entered a time warp or is dreaming (or is she) and totally different events unfold. People are dead, then alive, then dead ……

I really like Kate Atkinson’s writing – she has great humour and can develop believable engaging situations and characters, (I especially liked Lavinia /Vinny in this). She doesn’t need to do all the various what if tricks – she had a solid enough core story to hold the reader’s interest without this gimmickry.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alternative realities 12 Feb. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Notes for ‘Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

It was a book where it helped to be familiar with Atkinson’s style. It was written between Behind the scenes at the museum and Life after Life
And thematically the three novels follow each other and develop the underlying themes as they go. That is not to say that the novels are a trilogy, the characters are not the same. Not the same in the story sense, but they are the same in the sense of a representative type. Atkinson does not disappoint, as always, her characters are appalling , unlikeable people, horribly flawed. Characters just like us readers and the people with whom we come into contact every day. Characters that have dark thoughts and inexplicable corners of the mind where reality and imagination merge to form alternative realities.

Human Croquet runs riot on the theme of alternative realities as a precursor to Life after Life and gives the protagonist a more active role in the ‘time skip’ and family history theme than she had in Behind the Scenes.

I found it a more challenging read than both other novels, so a newcomer to Atkinson might be a bit confused and find it hard going, not to say unsatisfactory. One really has to ‘get’ Atkinson’s style to appreciate the finesse and genius of the writing. Sentence by sentence it is beautiful stand alone prose, sentences put together to make sense of a plot requires memory and analysis of the prose sentence by sentence. But it is worth the work. If one was expecting a novel of historical fiction or romance, forget it. The historical background is incidental to the themes of the psychological study of the time dimension, the horribly flawed human condition, predestination, abandonment, alienation and general futility of life.
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