Kate Atkinson, When Will There Be Good News? (2008)

My latest “I-can’t-believe-I’ve-only-just-discovered-this” writer: Kate Atkinson, for When will there be good news? with recurring character Jackson Brodie.

I’m sure millions of readers have been raving about her books. How come I’ve waited for so long? Perhaps because of my old (and stupid) prevention against summer best-sellers. It’s a shame I couldn’t go past the rather bland cover art and title before (another wheat field under the sun? oh come on!).

And the worst part of it (not worst per se, but the most shameful to confess for a book blogger) is that I discovered it first on TV through the BBC adaptation.

Yes, shocking, I know. One of the very few times where TV got me reading.

Anyway I’m ready to proselyte Atkinson now so that no one will make the same mistake as I did. Why is it so good? The characters and back stories, so rich that they would have been enough for a collection of short stories, and then the plot, where Atkinson weaves all these diverse strands so that they intersect, collide, or run in parallel. It feels like watching a mini world under a magnifying glass.

I won’t even start to tell you one of those strands, for fear that I would need to tell you about all of them. Because, you see, there are a number of sheer coincidences that stretches disbelief, and I can see that some readers will be put off by this breach of convention. But I was happy to stretch because the characters were endearing and the tone so witty and warm (uuh, I should hasten to add that the facts are very very bleak, so it’s not a walk in the park).

It is crime fiction, but Atkinson clearly means to stretch the genre (as much as the reader’s disbelief). The murder in the plot takes place in the first 20 pages and the murderer is immediately found and sent to jail. The real events take place 30 years later and involve a disappearance, some drug trafficking, insurance fraud, blackmail, a case of stolen identity and a lot more, but not your typical Colonel Mustard found dead in the library behind locked doors. Only after a good half of the book did the title take a deeper sense and a less clumsy tone: it’s all about fate and hope! The Guardian review compares it to the movie Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson, and it’s no coincidence (or is it?) that it counts among my favorite movies ever.

In the meantime, I do wonder if I’ll swallow all of the Jackson Brodie books or if I’ll go the lazy way and just indulge into Jason Isaacs’ interpretation on DVDs during my maternity break (plus yet another viewing of Magnolia, of course!).


10 thoughts on “Kate Atkinson, When Will There Be Good News? (2008)

  1. Much as I love the Jason Brodie books (for me the second in the series is the best) I would urge you to read her other books as well, especially her most recent ‘Life After Life’, which has not had the recognition it deserved.

  2. I started with the last in the series (Started Early, Took My Dog) and then, months later read the other 3 back to back in a few weeks. Although I like this one ( I thought the character Reggie was terrific) I think I liked the 2nd book best, then the 1st. I’m waiting for Life After Life to become available at my library, but I really want Atkinson to write more Brody books. You really should read the others. :-). Start with Case Histories to really understand Julia – and like her despite her flaws.

    • Yes, I loved Reggie too! She reminded me a bit of Punky Brewster which I watched as a kid. I’ve got Case Histories on DVD, but I’ll try to resist and read it on paper first.

  3. I’m a tremendous Atkinson fan, and I’m always happy to see someone else discover her books. All the Brodie books are very good, but I like her other books even better. The comparison between this book and Magnolia fascinates me as Magnolia is also one of my favorite movies and I’ve never thought to compare them.

  4. What a coindidence – I have this book checked out from the library right now! I’ve read a couple other of her books and always enjoyed them and this has received such great reviews, I can’t wait to start it. I’ll stop back here and let you know what I think!

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