I’ve just finished reading a couple of very different, but equally good books – Started Early, Took my Dog by Kate Atkinson and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.
I’m late to Kate Atkinson. I missed her somehow even though she’s just the kind of writer I’m all over. She writes beautifully. Breathless, brilliant stream of consciousness from multiple points of view, with all the limited viewpoints intertwining until the central mystery is revealed and resolved. I love the way she uses allusions and quotations, the half-remembered bits of poetry people carry around in their heads. She’s witty and sharp, and her novels are often described as comic, but I find them too wrenching to be funny exactly. However, the virtuousity of her use of language and the resilience of her characters leaves me feeling uplifted as well as traumatised. I raved about her to a friend during my recent visit to Dunedin. And it’s not just me. She also found Atkinson late, and is also captivated by the quality of her writing.
Karen Joy Fowler is of course the author of The Jane Austen Book Club, a fact that left me with lowered expectations, because that novel is the kind of book you find piled up in your local Whitcoulls. A straightforward, fairly light read. But We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a different beast altogether. The first person narrator’s voice is just right and the book grapples with the big stuff. What it means to be human. Family. Love. How we construct our identity. The slipperiness of language. Scientific ethics. I finished it this afternoon and am still all tangled up in it.