Sunday, August 17, 2014

Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson

Effie and her mother tell stories.

In 1972, Effie and her eccentric red-headed “mother”, holed up on a remote Scottish island, tell each other competing stories. Effie’s is of her comical travails among her fellow students in the University of Dundee’s creative writing program. Her mother’s is the fantastical story of Effie’s parentage. Inserted between their narratives are pages of Effie’s try at a murder mystery, another student’s endless fantasy trilogy, and their professor’s extremely pretentious novel. All is revealed at the end, though by that time the reader may not care that much about rather acerbic Effie. The point of this book is the voice.

This was amazing and very funny writing, supported by the comic tension between the lively narrative consciousnesses of Effie and her mother and the plodding rhythms of Effie’s terrible detective novel. Characters are skewered, especially on the college campus, although there were too many characters to keep straight. In many ways this book was a puzzle – why so many Dr. Who references? And the reader would get more out of the book if she were familiar with Scotland. The story is full of academic joking. Is Kate Atkinson considered to be a serious writer? If not, is it because she is a woman?

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