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Emotionally Weird Hardcover – 1 Jun 2000

3.5 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 1 Jun 2000
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; 1 edition (Jun. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312203241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312203245
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.3 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,032,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Review

"The lustre, energy and panache of her writing are as striking as ever...Funny, bold and memorable" (Helen Dunmore The Times)

"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...it is a work of Dickensian or even Shakespearean plenty" (The Scotsman)

"A truly comic novel - achingly funny in parts - challenging and executed with wit and mischief...hilarious and magical" (Meera Syal Daily Express)

"Her novels are remarkable both in and of themselves, and as evidence of an important emerging body of work from a brilliant and profoundly original writer" (Daily Telegraph) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I hadn't realised that this was an early book from Kate Atkinson. I began it expecting a truly cracking read. I very quickly found myself in a (auto)biography of student life in Dundee some decades ago. So far so good and then the characters began to appear with descriptions of them, their habits and background. The first few seemed a bit grotesque but beautifully described in Atkinson's style. However, more appeared and more and more. All were odd, weird, repulsive, in-comprehensible, damaged.... you add the adjectives. They all lived in disgusting premises, didn't do the work required of students and acted in totally baffling ways. Astounding co-incidences of action and appearance began to happen, strange strangers suddenly were inserted in the tale. And on and on.
Around now it dawned on me that there was some sort of literary joke happening. Descriptions of the protagonist's current life dropped in without warning, her mother (or possibly not her mother) kept commenting on the student's tale as it progressed, there was another story being written which, paragraphs of which dropped in again without any warning, tiny literary references turned up here and there.
I could see that this might round up to a clever, if baffling, denoument. So I kept going. Around a third of the way through I realised that I was avoiding picking up my Kindle to read on and when I did only getting through a few pages of continuing leaden humour before I left again. Sad, as Kate Atkinson's later work is so wonderfully good. I may finish the book one day but only for the sake of completeness rather than enjoyment.
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By A Customer on 14 Mar. 2000
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
I've had this book for about 8 years and every so often I pick it off the shelf and read it all over again (I've just finished it again for the sixth time). The story Effie tells of her time at Dundee University, her conversations with Nora, and her interactions with and observations of her fellow students are told in an interesting and quirky way by giving each situation its own font. This works very well; when Kevin gives his account of his novel 'The Chronicles of Edrakonia' you can almost hear his thick west-country accent ("..the Duke Thar-Vint on his trusty steed.."). The story flips between her time on the remote Scottish island with Nora, babysitting duties at the McCue household, the drudge of writing her own novel 'The Hand of Fate', her times "chez Bob" and the boring lectures where students read out their own attempts at writing. This style of writing takes a bit of getting used to but the story grows on you and gets better with time. I would recommend at least a second sitting with it.

Once you get to know the characters it is hilarious and by the end very fulfilling. The story is set mainly in Dundee in the midst of a cold, grey winter; knowing Dundee very well and the Scots dialect I connected vividly with her descriptions of the streets, the glib conversations and the constantly changing colours of the Tay ("it took on the hue of molten steel"). Having also been a university student who went through the mundane rounds of boring lectures and 'predicate logic' I really relate to this book (who doesn't remember a 'Bob' from their student days) however I could understand someone who doesn't have this background struggling with it.
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