Selection method: Wanted a book with “dog” in the title.
First sentence (sort of): Leeds: “Motorway City of the Seventies.” A proud slogan.
Worst sentence: Ken Arkwright had seen more than most but remained avuncular and sanguine, a good copper for a green girl to be beneath the wing of.
SAT words in that sentence: avuncular, sanguine
Animals I would rather be eaten by than read this book: shark, zebra, lamprey, parrot
On the inside flap of this book is praise from a critic from Time magazine. He calls Kate Atkinson “uncategorizable”. I feel sorry for him not to have this category checkbox I have here on my WordPress site. The category is “Shitty”. It’s not “Super Shitty” or “Not Shitty” and certainly not as shitty as books by James Patterson. But it’s definitely shitty.
There are a lot of references to 1970’s British news and pop culture here. A lot. The Black and White Minstrel Show, John Poulson, Bye Bye Baby, Baby Goodbye, Donald Neilson (“the Black Panther”, but not the cool American kind), Harold Shipman, The Dick Emery Show, Steptoe and Son, Mike Yarwood. That’s just the first two pages. I don’t know what any of those things or people are. I’m guessing a bunch of British pensioners do (in America, “retirees”). And I’m guessing British people are actually more racist than their American counterparts. The Black and White Minstrel Show, pictured at left, ran for twenty years, ending in 1978. These people needed some fucking Sesame Street.
Getting back to the book, the first chapter opens “1975: April 9“. So all the references were not necessary. I remember 1975. I was dead.
With all these unfamiliar references, and all the cheeky Britspeak (like “PC” and “bloke” and “Jesus H. Christ” and “cheeky”) you might think it difficult for an American to decode its shittiness. Not so. A shitty book is shitty in every argot (in America, “dialect”. In Georgia and north Florida, “funny talkin'”). Kate Atkinson is crafty enough with her sentences, but a book with so many news and pop references can only appeal to one small segment of the population: racist British news junkie pensioners. In 20 years, they’ll all be dead and this book will be useless. Even if the writing were spectacular it gets completely lost in this mud of bollocks you once watched on BBC One.
My Pro Tip of the Day: if you’re going to write a period novel, keep the references to the fewest necessary to tell the story. Don’t tell us about the shows on TV unless someone is actually watching that show and then gets stabbed or has their mother kidnapped and made to watch The Dick Emery Show while being stabbed by a pensioner in blackface. Something with stabs.
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