Human Croquet: A Novel Paperback – May 25 1999
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Human Croquet is a game in which some people act as hoops while others propel a blindfolded "ball" around the course. Though the game is never actually played in Kate Atkinson's remarkable novel, Human Croquet, the parallels between plot and pastime are undeniable. Atkinson, winner of the 1995 Whitbread Award in Britain, tells the story of Isobel Fairfax and her older brother, Charles. The children's parents vanished when they were young, leaving them to the care of their grandmother, now dead, and their Aunt Vinny. Recently their father has returned with "the Debbie-wife" in tow, and they all live in Arden, the family's ancestral home built on the foundations of the original manor house that burned to the ground in 1605. According to family legend, the first Fairfax took a wife who mysteriously disappeared one day, leaving in her wake a curse on the Fairfax name. More than 300 years later, Fairfax descendants are still struggling with this painful legacy.
Atkinson's novel is obviously not rooted in dull reality. Narrator Isobel has an uncanny knowledge of past and future events; Charles is obsessed with the concept of parallel universes and time travel; and a faery curse hangs over everybody. Fortunately, Kate Atkinson is a masterful writer who manages to keep her world of wonders in check. Human Croquet is no ordinary novel, and readers who venture into the Fairfax universe are in for a magical ride. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
This ambitious and unusual novel concerns the nature of time, memory, and, most poignantly, identity. Young Isobel and her brother, Charles, are abandoned by their parents to the loveless care of a sour aunt, stern grandmother, and evil schoolmaster. They spend seven years yearning for the truth about their parents' disappearance and for their mother's return. It is their father, however, who returns?with a new young wife. The home of the protagonists is built on a site where, in the late 16th century, parallel events took place, and the novel warps and wends from past to present to future. British author Atkinson (Behind the Scenes at the Museum, St. Martin's, 1995) here focuses on Isobel's 16th year in 1960. Dopplegangers abound; people long-dead manifest themselves to the living. As the fantastic and the mundane combine almost seamlessly, incest, puppy love, and dysfunctional families mix to darkly comic effect. For most fiction collections; get Atkinson's first book, too.?Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, N.Y.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The only reason I don't give this book a five is that the narrative is too choppy and the plot threads too many. Maybe I just lack the subtlety and intelligence to see how all the bits fit together, but overall I wished she'd stayed with Isobel and let her tell her story in her own voice. Caveat emptor, also, it's a funny book but it's very dark, the teenage girl directly experiences or indirectly suffers the results of every sort of human abuse: rape, murder, incest, spouses killing each other, mother's abandoning children, men beating wives, adults beating children, you name it.
I'm really looking forward to reading other works by Atkinson, and I guess that's the highest praise.
I have just discovered that Kate Atkinson's next book is out in June! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
Anyway... there is so much I could say about this book - it is a devastatingly devious whodunnit, that you don't even realise is a whodunnit until you realise it IS one; it is a extremely funny, barbed and ironic book; it is a character driven piece as well as a plot-driven piece. It is one of my top 10 books of all time. The only other book I can think of that comes even close to Kate Atkinson's style in this book is Jostein Gaarder's "The Solitaire Mystery"
Most recent customer reviews
What an incredible imagination Kate Atkinson has....another truly brilliant novel with convincing characters and inspired storytelling. I just love her writingPublished 18 months ago by Deborah Frankland
This was my first Atkinson non Brodie book... And I loved it. The exploration of reality and parallel universe is cleverly done... Which story is true???? Which is not??? Read morePublished on Aug. 21 2013 by Amazon Customer
I had read a couple of Kate Atkinson's novels but this was very different. It leaps from past to present and even to the future. Read morePublished on Oct. 27 2011 by Trainergirl
This was one of the strangest books I've ever read and believe me,I read alot. 16 year old Isobel of Arden,England expriences a series of strange occurances surrounding herself and... Read morePublished on Dec 2 2002 by Robyn Lee Markow
I bought this book after reading Behind the Scenes at the Museum. I really like Kate Atkinsons writing style.
This is a story of much complexity and I couldn't put it down. Read more
Atkinson is an extremely witty and clever author. Every page (often every paragraph or sentence) contains something to wonder at, to laugh at, to be surprised at. Read morePublished on Dec 4 2000 by Susan K. Perry
Kate Atkinson has a quite unusual and creative style of writing. If you like very linear,unambiguous fiction, she is definitely not for you but if you are up for a challenging and... Read morePublished on Oct. 24 2000 by Carol S.
This book was lovely -- beautiful descriptions, fascinating characters and plot, and an intriguing first chapter that hooked me instantly. Read morePublished on June 26 2000
I just can't stop read it! Isobel's live is so piercing and unbelievable that it's still a pleasure to leap from one page to another even if it's not the first time...Published on April 21 2000 by Ravache Alice