Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie, #4) by Kate Atkinson

started early

If there was a way of giving this book more than five stars, I would. It is breathtakingly good fiction.

It works as a satisfying crime novel and as a mainstream examination both of how we live with the consequences of the choices that we make and the mores and attitudes of Britain now and in 1975.

The prose is beautiful. The voice of each character is distinct and believable. Time and place are evoked with an almost clinical clarity. The interior monologues, particularly that of “Silly Tilly” who is slipping into dementia are intimate, accurate and yet easy to read. The shifts along the timeline and between characters’ point of view are well crafted so that the reader’s understanding of the story and characters of the people evolves into something richly textured and authentic.

Despite the gritty nature of some of the themes and the gruesome start to the chain of events that the novel unravels, this remains an optimistic book that can make you laugh as easily as it can make you cry.

Perhaps it’s because this book describes my own generation but I felt deep empathy with the newly retired police woman, coming to terms with the gap between what she wants and where her choices have taken her. Tilly’s tale also stays in memory, not just because of the skilful way in which dementia is evoked but because of the betrayals and disappointments that she has endured. “The Kid” Courtney/Lucy slices her way into the reader’s heart with thumbs-ups and star hand waves and tiny trove of personal treasures that she lays out like an act of prayer.

The book is full of people who make the wrong decision or trust the wrong person and pay the price. It is a sign of Kate Atkinson’s skill that we come to understand and empathise with these people rather than judging them

The back of the book tells me that this is the fourth book featuring Jackson Brodie. but my lack of knowledge of the previous books didn’t mar my enjoyment of this one. Jackson is a curious character, a lightning-rod for strange events that he reacts to with remarkable passivity. A man who would like insight into himself but can only find it in the words of his ex-wife. A man who is surprised to find that the company of a dog is good for the soul.

This was my first Kate Akinson book, but it certainly won’t be my last.

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