Life After Books: Atkinson, Donoghue and Ness

Oh, heavens. I just realised that technically speaking the whole ‘New Year’ entry was a special edition so I’m still supposed to write one this week, preferably before the evening is over.

I don’t want to wake up early to go back to work tomorrow. I want to wake up early to walk the dogs, do all the little things I need and want to do, and settle in to write some stuff. January blues, hey ho. I just need a patch of actual blue in the sky or some such cheerfulness in the morning to make things seem a bit better. Or just some sleep. And a few hours to finish reading Patrick Ness’s More Than This.

No, no, don’t tell me what happens. I received a good haul of literature for Christmas – and, purely by coincidence, it’s set me on a fantastic streak of stories that make you question reality and the permanence of life as we know or understand it. But all in different ways, and all brilliant.

Books on books, on the only shelf with a bit of space. They're all hardback as well, which is novel (ha ha! Novel! Geddit?... *tumbleweed*).
Books on books, on the only shelf with a bit of space. They’re all hardback as well, which is novel (ha ha! Novel! Geddit?… *tumbleweed*).

This inadvertently themed reading might have something to do with my weird mood of crankiness combined with optimistic ‘everything changes’ that’s solidly set in since we arrived home about three hours ago in the dark, to a storm-damaged flat. (On that note, if anyone knows of a place with reasonable rent, outdoor space and a pro-dog policy that is vaguely affordable, please let me know. It doesn’t necessarily need to be London-based, but commutability is a requirement. Probably too far North or island-y would be a problem though (otherwise I already know two places that would be options).)

The books in question: Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson; Room, by Emma Donaghue and the aforementioned More Than This, which I was devouring on the 2.5 hour train journey with, admittedly, some caution in case he side-swipes me with sadness. That’s happened before, on the train, with one of his books and when that happened I didn’t have enough tissues handy for the fucking Pacific Ocean of tears that burst forth.

I don’t often get the chance to just sit down and swallow a story these days, but the book being read has quite a lot to do with that. The ones that really grab me are the ones that will have me ditching my friends so that I can take time out to finish them. Life After Life was finished in two days, Room was finished in one. Both of them left me reeling, and I don’t say that lightly.

More Than This is already giving me the jitters. I started it last night. I expect I’ll have finished it by the time I sleep tonight, and I expect to have very disturbing dreams. This is complimentary, by the way. I love stories that make me question, well, the very fabric of life. That they’ve all left me with a feeling of unease, in very different ways, is brilliant.

I went in blind to every single one of them (especially, actually, the Atkinson. I wrote my MA dissertation on her earlier books, so had a fair amount of preconceptions. I’ve read all her detective books. I was not expecting Life After Life to wrong-foot me the way it did) and that’s, also, a rare pleasure these days.

That unexpectedness is also why this entry isn’t a review as such. I don’t want to outline any premises, or forms, or structures that would ruin these books for other people (also I haven’t finished More Than This yet, so I’m not in a position to review it. It’s great so far though, and I have faith in Ness to finish it beautifully, since he’s written one of the strongest trilogies I’ve ever read (Chaos Walking – check it. As I recall, the first two books were nominated for the Carnegie Medal. The last book won it.)

So I’ll just say that, in the event you have ‘read more books’ down as one of your 2014 resolutions, I’d suggest picking up one or all of these and just retreating from the world for a couple of days. It’ll look different when you resurface.

UPDATE – the day after

I finished More Than This last night and could not sleep afterwards. And I did cry at part of it. It’s a fantastic book, another one that makes the reader reconsider the way the world appears and the way we react to events and surroundings.  I wish I could be more eloquent, but I can only suggest you read it and let it mess with your head.

In additional news, Life After Life just won the Costa Novel Award. Atkinson won the Whitbread Book of the Year (back when Costa was Whitbread) in 1995 with her first novel, as well – Behind The Scenes At The Museum, also very much worth a read.

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