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Human Croquet [Hardcover]

Kate Atkinson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 1997
Once it had been the great forest of Lythe but over the centuries the forest had been destroyed and replaced by streets of trees. The Fairfax family remained, including Vinny (the aunt from hell), Charles, the acne-scarred lost boy and Isobel to whom the story belongs.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition edition (1 Mar 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385405960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385405966
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.4 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 367,380 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


"Vivid, richly imaginative, hilarious and frightening by turns" (Observer)

"Huge, exhilarating, loving and detailed eruption of a utterly intoxicating display of novelistic elan...big and joyous, literary and accessible...storytelling at its buoyant best" (The Scotsman)

"Wonderfully eloquent and forceful Kate Atkinson goes at the same pace in her second novel as she did in her first...welcome back, wild north-easter...brilliant and engrossing" (Evening Standard)

"Vivid and intriguing...fizzles and crackles along...a tour de force" (Independent)

"Part ghost story, part murder mystery, this is an exquisitely written, literary novel that reads as compellingly as any thriller" (Cosmopolitan) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The brilliant second novel from the author of the Whitbread prizewinner Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Now on CD --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 36 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive and depressing 10 Sep 2011
I'm not one to give up on a book but I came very close with this one. What an irritating and depressing read. The author has used gimmicky literary devices to mislead and annoy the reader, dissecting figures of speech like a precocious child and using parallel plot-lines as 'alternative possibilities', which left me feeling increasingly indifferent towards the characters. After all, if you've just invested an hour reading about the deaths of three main characters and then suddenly they inexplicably appear to be alive again, you're inevitably going to feel you've been swindled. I found the preoccupation with child rape dispiriting and nihilistic. There were, however, many passages of exceptionally good prose. Kate Atkinson can certainly write, it's just her storyline that sucks. I got through it by speedreading and was glad when it was over. Unfortunately this is the first book I've read by Atkinson, and it's left such a bad taste in my mouth I'm not sure I'd take another bite. Not recommended.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An usual style for a very british novel 14 Sep 2003
By Elizabeth Taylor VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Its hard to describe what this book is about other than a chunk of the life of an individual at a particular place in time. The herione of our tale is a teenage girl filled with self-doubt about herself and her looks with a strange bag of misfit friends, a brother who is obsessed with aliens and bizarre events and who lusts after the best looking boy in town. Her rather strange world is described in very simple language like an old fashioned fairy tale so we hear about her aunt vinny and her cats, the creepy lodger and her parents. The main thread of the book is how the disappearance of her mother haunts both herself and her brother and how they believe this has landed them in the frankly surrealist world they live in. There are also other characters in the pot, the great forest which once dominated the landscape of england and some of the major characters that lead to the creation of the town.
Throughout the book we hear the voice of the girl describing the events around her with an innocent eye, however, these chapters are interspersed with flashbacks during which we discover over time the truth behind all the characters past and present. Her father the ex-war hero, her mother who she sees as a beautiful elusive figure, her step-mother, her grandmother and so on. In doing so we receive a very different view which is far from innocent on the desires and weaknesses of the characters and a world a lot darker, more real and much more dirty than hers.
Some of the book is very funny, and the characterisations told in simple language very interesting but if you're looking for humour be aware that this is a typical english thing, a black comedy with some sad truths.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unsure ! 13 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is one of those books that you can never quite work out whether you enjoyed or not.
It kept me reading, but was very very odd.
Still havent really got a clue what it was all about.
Read several of her other books and they were much better.
Not a terrible book, but just a very strange story.
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72 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book 13 Jun 2004
By A Customer
Human Croquet is about a girl, Isobel Fairfax, who lives with her father who left her when she was eight(?) and then came back, seven years later, Vinny, who's her emotionless and grumpy aunt, her stepmother, Debbie, who's nearly the same age as her, and her alien-obsessed brother. Her mother disappeared little before her father left her and her brother.
Human Croquet is a wonderfully bizarre book, full of twists and fascinating, deep characters. It is confusing in a good way, and when I finished it, I just felt like reading it again to notice every single little detail that, if I'd been more clever, would've maybe given the ending away.
I'll have to start looking for Kate Atkinson's other books
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Found it rather tedious
Published 1 day ago by Jean Bayoumi
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it!
Absolutely loved this book. Cannot understand why, after reading 'Behind the Scenes...' years ago, I hadn't looked out for more of Kate Atkinson's novels. Read more
Published 2 months ago by phoenix
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Found this hard to put down. Paragraphs go from past to present. I needed to find out what happened next.
Published 2 months ago by Jean Brown
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 4 months ago by ruth davies
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read
I have recently discovered Kate Atkinson and I enjoyed this every bit as much as the others I have read. Her writing is intriguing and very readable
Published 4 months ago by John M Ross
3.0 out of 5 stars Puxxling
Intriguing story but couldn't quite follow time slips. Characters very well drawn as ever. Not sure if I really fommed the "conclusion". Read more
Published 5 months ago by Guisbourne
4.0 out of 5 stars Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson
A bit slow at the start but as usual, an enjoyable read - I am a big Kate Atkinson fan.
Published 5 months ago by Lin Davidson
3.0 out of 5 stars HUMAN CROQUET
Found it weird and dis-jointed. Having read the Jackson Brodie books previously, prompted e to buy this one. I was disappointed.
Published 6 months ago by Dicee.
4.0 out of 5 stars Hugely enjoyable
Absorbing. Weak ending but still worth it. Great touches of humour, perceptive and intelligent writing. Recommend most of her books.
Published 6 months ago by jcd53
5.0 out of 5 stars Human Croquet.
I buy books when I see them at a good price, I then keep them in my home library for future reading. I enjoy Kate Atkinson so look forward to reading this book.
Published 7 months ago by Mrs. Jennifer Warden
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