Thursday, 21 October 2010

Started Early, Took My Dog

I'd fully intended to take this book on holiday with me but for one reason or another I'd not managed to get hold of a copy in time. Fortunately, as readers of my blog might already have read, there was a copy on the shelf in the living area of my holiday let, perhaps left behind by a recent visitor. I suppose I was fated to spend my holidays with Kate Atkinson no matter what I did. Fate and synchronicity aren't strangers to Kate's writing either, not least this fourth outing for retired private detective Jackson Brodie. It's another deliciously enjoyable read from this ever dependable author. This one seems even more personal to me than ever. How does she do that? It's like she writes books just for me. Dipping back to the 70s, that golden time of my childhood, here the dark era of the serial killer infested Yorkshire, and back to the now and the consequences of decisions made over three decades later, Kate weaving a web of complexity with characters and plot-lines that slowly converge. My favourite poet, Emily Dickinson, gets more than just the title; she crops up throughout both quoted and thematically. Even Jackson seems to be tracking me north to Whitby, dogging my tracks to my holiday escape. And driving home, south through Yorkshire I'm almost keeping an eye out for a Saab in the rear view mirror, a light-up Virgin Mary blinking on the dashboard and further behind dogging him - that silver Avensis. Maybe he's hampered by the detours too. We pass Byland Abbey, clearly visible from the road. Surely that should hold him up for a while. Jackson loves his abbeys. Sadness, regret, fatalism - they're all still here but tempered by humour and lastly by hope. It's probably fitting that Emily Dickinson gets the last word.

'Hope' is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I've heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of Me.
Emily Dickinson

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