Customer Reviews


62 Reviews
5 star:
 (32)
4 star:
 (11)
3 star:
 (11)
2 star:
 (5)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating start to the novel but flagged a bit in the middle
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...
Published on 27 May 2008 by Janie U

versus
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting novel let down by a poor ending
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...
Published on 5 Oct 2009 by I Read, Therefore I Blog


‹ Previous | 1 27 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting novel let down by a poor ending, 5 Oct 2009
This review is from: Human Croquet (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. Without spoiling it, the final device that Atkinson uses to pull her strands together feels very cheap (akin to Bobby Ewing emerging from the shower) and spoilt the effect of the previous pages. Up until that point I'd found the book to be a real page turner and it's a shame that the ending felt like rather a cheat. Also disappointing was the recurring theme of sex abuse and incest, which became so repetitive towards the end that it almost felt as though Atkinson had run out of ideas.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating start to the novel but flagged a bit in the middle, 27 May 2008
By 
Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Human Croquet (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


40 of 46 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 (France) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Human Croquet (Paperback)
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. It is a very different book, in its style and approach and certainly grips you with a desire to know the truth behind all the people you meet and I stayed up late at night reading away. Its probably not everyones cup of tea and I'm not sure I'd want to read lots of this type of writing but its unusual, funny and worth the investment for long plane rides and train rides.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


72 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book, 13 Jun 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Human Croquet (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
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stop the time travel!, 12 Aug 2014
This review is from: Human Croquet (Paperback)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like a modern Fay Weldon, 23 July 2011
By 
Mrs. R. Johnson (East Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Human Croquet (Paperback)
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!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Alternative realities, 12 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Human Croquet (Kindle Edition)
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. It is overtly brutal in some places, more subtly so in others which make these more disturbing.

The imagery sometimes feels overdone, but on reflection, this is not so, it has many layers and levels that can easily be missed. The woods, the forest and the trees are the real story, the characters are the trees.

Some may find the ending device unsatisfactory and a disappointment. At first I would have agreed with this, even let out and audible groan. However, on reading on to the concluding chapters I realised that I had missed the utter brilliance of the underlying imagery. So much so, I have gone back to the beginning to re-read, and in doing so, am amazed at the absolute jaw dropping integrity of the whole novel.

These Atkinson novels are always worth a few reads to really appreciate the nuances and how it is all put together. While many readers would not think it worth the study, others will find them almost life changing, and many will even find some psychological reassurance.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it!, 30 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Human Croquet (Kindle Edition)
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. I'm now totally hooked and I'm charging my way through the Jackson Brodie set after discovering this one and also 'Life after Life' which is also a gem. Atkinson just has a brilliant way of writing which is both funny and poignant. Her characters breathe life and they instantly take root in your mind. Her stories are very cleverly orchestrated and leave you guessing until the end. Love her!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even The Bard makes an appearance..., 17 Oct 2007
By 
This review is from: Human Croquet (Hardcover)
This is one of my all-time favourite novels. With characters I can really relate too and wonderful situations that made me laugh out loud, this book cleverly weaves several alternate worlds together in such a style that you may be left wondering which was the "real" story.

But whether you can work it out or not, you cannot fail to be caught up in a world of time-travel, Shakespeare, magic and a pinch of teen angst from the perspective of Isobel, who has to deal with a missing mother, a crazy step-mum, a brother who communicates with aliens and the constant nagging worry that she herself is going slightly mad. The underlying plot of a missing mother she can barely remember is a serious one that works well alongside the other, strange going-on in Isobel's world and one that will tug at the heart-strings.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull, dull.., 1 Sep 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Human Croquet (Kindle Edition)
Oh dear.... I've read nearly all Kate's others - this did make me fall asleep on many occassions. Can't get to grips with it and gave up in the end. Isobel is too clever for her own good and her insight at sixteen is seriously not right. It's an adult's view and this really tells us nothing as the story lumps along. And then whoops, Mr Rice in the garden and his mushroom, portrayals of nutty family members (really strange
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 27 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Human Croquet
Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson (Hardcover - 1 Mar 1997)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews