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Human Croquet: A Novel Paperback – Nov 12 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (May 25 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312186886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312186883
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.5 x 20.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #44,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Although Shakespeare's play is never referenced, the symbolism of the Forest of Arden in As You Like It (where identity is a game and relationships are as mutable as time) is clear in this witty, wise, confusing, magically realistic novel that reminds one of Mervin Peake's Gormenghast trilogy and of Jane Eyre simultaneously. This is without a doubt one of the best books I've read this year, for the story, the characters, and Atkinson's marvelously fluid writing style. If I sound like I'm trying to write a literary assessment of the book, it's because it extends into so many areas and dimensions, successfully and in an entertaining way.
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Format: Paperback
As in Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson offers the reader brilliant and beautiful, wonderful writing with a few characters that are a bit too one-dimensional. I thought as I read this novel that it raised fascinating questions about the nature of time itself; unfortunately, I was wrong. As in Behind the Scenes, in this otherwise excellent book, Kate Atkins goes for a cheap B-movie "surprise" ending, an ending I am amazed any editor wouldn't insist on her rewriting. It's a shame that this gifted writer can't end her novels better. I loved both books until the last few chapters.
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Format: Hardcover
The bits of this book narrated by 16 year old Isobel are terrific, I recommended it to all my friends who read "The Tooth Fairy" (I still haven't gotten my copy of that back it's so popular!). The humor, the rather forgiving cynicism, the detached outlook of a teenage outcast whose life has been in upheaval since she can remember, are all top-notch. Best yet, the kid is a voracious reader and her narratives are spiced with literary allusions and inside jokes. When her life starts to take on even more oddness -- dopplegangers, impossible mementos from her missing mother, momentary slips into other periods in time, she handles these aberrations with the same resigned humor.
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.
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Format: Paperback
I came upon "Human Croquet" after reading Atkinson's first novel, "Behind the Scenes..." and quite frankly I do have to admit I preferred the first. Having a debut novel established on such solid ground would, I presume hold a challenging task for any given author when undertaking the writing and publication of a follow-up, and Atkinson herself is no exception. There are less characters in "Human Croquet" yet too often the plot and its events are far too complicated and confusing for the reader, as often you get completely confused with what has actually happened or what is merely the result of Isobel (the protagonist's) imagination. We see the object of Isobel's affection, Malcom Lovatt, die three times and in the closure of the novel we are given the events of his life story in just a few lines. The novel is seemingly full of bizarre contradictions and in summary the novel seems to lack the originality and freshness of its predecessor. What we can expect of "Emotionally Weird" certainly leaves a lot to be desired. A substantial effort.
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Format: Paperback
I read Kate Atkinson's first book somewhat reluctantly - "Behind The Scenes At The Museum" - and then read it all through in delight and fascination. If anything, Human Croquet is even better. A tighter narrative, a closer grasp upon the characters in her book, and an incredible wit and talent for characterisation have combined to greatly improve upon Atkinson's style. Behind the Scenes was an awesome debut. Human Croquet is a marvellous book. I fell instantly in love with the characters, even the ones you aren't really sure you're supposed to like, but do anyway (Aunt Vinny is an absolute black delight.). It explores realities and dreamlands, plays around with our expectations and thoughts, and eventually everything falls into place. You MUST re-read this book at least three times. It's the only way you will ever realise just what a superlative work of art it is - complex, deep, and very, very clever....
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"
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