Kate Atkinson's first collection of short stories is as fascinating
as one would expect from the author of the award-winning Behind the
Scenes of the Museum. Inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses, Atkinson
has written 12 linked stories, their style varying from witty and
malicious to melancholic. Quoting Ovid, she promises the reader
that she will tell us tales of transformation and this she proceeds
to do. A nanny sprouts wings and, like a Mary Poppins in reverse,
carries her neglected charge away to happiness. A geeky child
obsessed with cataloguing fish turns out to have been born of a
union between his bikini-clad mother and the god of an underwater
kingdom, a 'colossal roaring presence'. Myths provide the backdrops
but Atkinson breathes into them a mint-new meaning, giving her own
interpretation of the way we live now. She has something to say
about consumerism, the way we are in thrall to soap opera and our
pathetic worship of media stars, but she reserves her heavy
ammunition for an attack on those who fail to love. In a
brilliantly funny story she portrays family life and the dwindling
show of affection between teenage children and their mother. Her
ear for desultory, sometimes vicious family dialogue is uncanny.
Later in the book she picks up the same characters and depicts them
all a little older, a little more sad and lonely. Earnest, good
mothers, she seems to be saying, deserve so much more than this.
Her theme is frequently love: being in love, seeking, finding and
sometimes losing the loved one, but fantasy is never far from the
surface. From the very first story, 'Charlene and Trudi Go
Shopping', the reader begins to see a transformed, skewed world.
The two girls imagine themselves in Pleasureland and dreamily
recite to each other a litany of enticing goodies that they might
buy, while all the time the zoo animals roam free outside and
museums are ransacked. Inventive, engaging and often very moving,
these are truly tales for the new millennium. (Kirkus UK)
NOT THE END OF THE WORLD consists of twelve linked stories which
form a thematic whole. This is Kate Atkinson's first collection of
stories, and they are brilliant, daring, witty and provocative.
These stories are full of the poignancy of abandoned children and
lonely adults, the seductiveness of our consumer society, and the
fatalism of a post-Apocalyptic world. From Charlene and Trudi,
madly shopping while bombs explode softly in the world outside, to
gormless Eddie, a cataloguer of fish, and Meredith Zane who
discovered the secret to eternal life, each story contains a cast
of startling and wonderfully described characters. What each of
them explores is the infinite variety of ways in which people can
try to change the world around them, and themselves.
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