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In Praise of Kate
What am I going to do? I’ve just finished reading the last Jackson Brodie novel by Kate Atkinson.
It’s hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t read them what it is about Kate Atkinson’s books that are so addictive. It’s the way she gets inside her characters’ heads, gives them the strange off-the-wall thoughts that go through all of our minds. We really know these people. They’re not perfect. They don’t always do the right thing. They have faults and flaws like we do.
“Big Sky” is the fifth and final in the Jackson Brodie series. It’s darker than the previous four. Parts of it I found deeply disturbing. There are lots of different strands and I sometimes found myself becoming confused and having to look back to check exactly who someone was.
In typical Kate Atkinson way our main protagonist clearly occupies our contemporary every day world (there are iPhones and iPads galore), but his childhood seems more like that of a sixty five year old than a forty five year old. His childhood life sounds like something from the 1950’s, complete with a scullery, a sister who made her own clothes and fish and chips eaten out of greasy newspaper. This is one of the reasons we love Kate Atkinson however. She breaks all the usual rules but we accept it with a nonchalant shrug and read avidly on.
Similarly there are plot lines that would be unacceptable in any other book. The miraculous way that at least three characters in this book (Dr. Hunter, Crystal Holroyd and Bronte Finch) have somehow miraculously “re-invented” themselves and risen effortlessly from rags to riches after childhoods full of abuse, neglect and trauma.
In this novel we meet some characters from previous Jackson Brodie novels: Reggie Chase all grown up now and in the police force and Julia, Jackson’s inner voice, constantly criticising and cajoling him. And we meet a whole host of new protagonists, some of them very unpleasant.
I do hope Kate Atkinson writes another Jackson Brodie soon. I’m missing him already.
Bethany Askew is the author of eight novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days, Poppy’s Seed, Three Extraordinary Years,The Two Saras and I know you, Don’t I?
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Two more women’s fiction books have been accepted for publication in 2020 and 2021 respectively and she is currently working on a new novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.