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Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson

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Another story of family and telling stories. Effie and her mother Nora (who it turns out is not her mother) tell their tales to each other on a remote Scottish island. Full of humour and warmth and the usual quirkiness of her novels.

If you like Kate Atkinson you might also like to read books by Helen Dunmore, Helen FitzGerald and Elizabeth George.


Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson

On a peat and heather island off the west coast of Scotland, Effie and her mother Nora take refuge in the large mouldering house of their ancestors and tell each other stories. Nora, at first, recounts nothing that Effie really wants to hear, like who her father was - variously Jimmy, Jack, or Ernie. Effie tells of her life at college in Dundee, the land of cakes and William Wallace, where she lives in a lethargic relationship with Bob, a student who never goes to lectures, seldom gets out of bed, and to whom the Klingons are as real as the French and the Germans (more real than the Luxemburgers). But strange things are happening. Why is Effie being followed? Is someone killing the old people? And where is the mysterious yellow dog?

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As in Behind the Scenes at the Museum and Human Croquet, Atkinson once again uses all her sorcery with language to bedazzle the reader. In essence this is a simple story. Nora and Effie (who might be mother and daughter) are living on an otherwise deserted Scottish island. They are the last of the line of Stuart-Murrays. Student Effie is recuperating from a nasty bout of flu and to relieve the tedium of rainy days and long, dark nights, they tell each other stories which might, or might not, be true. Nora's, brief and uninformative to begin with, are about the family's past ('Grand Guinol, with a pinch of Greek Tragedy'). Effie's graphic, satirical stories are set in the 1970s and revolve around student life and her shiftless friends - interspersed with chunks of her Writing Assignment, which rapidly turns into a crime novel. As always, the story is overflowing with invention, marvellous descriptions, and laugh-aloud jokes. This is, in fact, a novel with a life of its own - a book one could easily be persuaded 'wrote itself' - though on reflection it is carefully controlled, and has its own logic. And at the end all is revealed and all loose ends firmly knotted. There are many loose ends. Who is Effie's father? Who, indeed, her real mother? Who were Nora's parents? Who is following Effie when she's in Dundee and for what reason? Why are so many old people dying in the local retirement home? Don't worry, all will become transparent before the last page is - reluctantly - turned. (Kirkus UK)

About the Author

Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and has been a critically acclaimed writer ever since. Her four bestselling novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie became the BBC television series Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs. Her latest novel Life After Life was shortlisted for several prestigious literary prizes including the Women’s (formerly Orange) and the Costa Novel Prize. She was appointed MBE in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh.

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Book Info

Publication date

20th January 2001


Kate Atkinson

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Black Swan an imprint of Transworld Publishers Ltd


496 pages


Family Drama
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Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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