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Human Croquet [Paperback]

Kate Atkinson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
Price: £6.39 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

1 Mar 1998

Once it had been the great forest of Lythe - a vast and impenetrable thicket of green.And here, in the beginning, lived the Fairfaxes, grandly, at Fairfax Manor, visited once by the great Gloriana herself.

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 details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (1 Mar 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055299619X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552996198
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 53,277 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

Review

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

"Huge, exhilarating, loving and detailed eruption of a novel...an 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)

Book Description

The brilliant second novel from the Richard & Judy winner and Whitbread (now Costa) prizewinner

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 38 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
Format:Paperback
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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5 of 5 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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39 of 44 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Janie U TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
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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72 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book 13 Jun 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Arrived speedily in great condition....looking forward to reading now. Thank you .
Published 18 days ago by joebethlaurie
3.0 out of 5 stars Stop the time travel!
What is it with Kate Atkinson and time travel and giving numerous different versions of what might have been. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Damo Green
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Atkinson at her best
Published 2 months ago by JA
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Found it rather tedious
Published 3 months 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 5 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 6 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 9 months ago by Lin Davidson
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