UK Kirkus Review »
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)
US Kirkus Review » The author of Whitbread Awardwinner Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1996) indulges in even more of the postmodern game-playing that disrupted Human Croquet (1997). The year is 1972. Twenty-one-year-old Euphemia Stuart-Murray and her mother, Nora, are camped out at the crumbling family home on a remote Scottish island. We must get on, we must tell our tales, says Nora, and Effie begins with details of her adventures in graduate school just a month earlier at Dundee University. Shes living with Bob, a fellow student more interested in watching Star Trek, smoking dope, and listening to Led Zeppelin than attending classes. Effies not doing much better: she owes papers to all her professors and can barely muster up the energy to attend her tutorial, led by pompous Archie McCue, who spouts academic gibberish to his indifferent tutees. Interspersed with Effies narration are snatches from the murder mystery shes writing for another class; from Archies endless experimental novel, The Expanding Prism of J; from the heavy-breathing romance his wife is penning; and from other students work, including a Tolkien-like fantasy and a Beckettesque nihilistic drama. All of these highlight Atkinsons wicked wit without much advancing the plotnot that it matters, since the storyline is a slapdash affair involving various lost dogs, a ratty private eye, and lots of humor at the expense of self-important 70s radicalism and perennial grad-student aimlessness. Noras story, parceled out reluctantly at Effies urging, concerns her daughters mysterious origins; the final revelations about both womens parentage will not surprise anyone whos been paying attention to the heavy foreshadowing. Atkinsons jokes are funny, her characters lively (if cartoonish), but her scattershot approach to storytelling wears thin long before the end. Behind the Scenes at the Museum proved Atkinson can be playful and probing when she chooses. Fans of this talented writer can only hope that next time out shell concentrate more on emotional substance, less on narrative tricks. (Kirkus Reviews)
Book Review: Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson - Reviewed by CloggieA (02 Sep 2014)
Emotionally Weird is the third stand-alone novel by award-winning British author, Kate Atkinson. It is the early seventies and twenty-one-year-old Euphemia Andrews (Effie) goes home to the family’s summer holiday house on a remote west coast Scottish island where she shares stories with her mother Eleanora (Nora). Effie relates recent events in her life at University in Dundee; Nora, at first unforthcoming, begins to reveal facts about Effie’s true heritage (like her real surname), eventually relating the history of the Stuart-Murray family, including the death of the aunt after whom Effie was named. In Dundee, while trying to meet essay deadlines for her English degree and thinking about leaving the incredibly lazy Bob, Effie becomes convinced she is being followed: there’s this woman in a red coat; and a middle-aged ex-cop turned PI named Chick driving a white Cortina keeps turning up. There are a few deaths that may or may not be natural; several people around her believe someone is trying to kill them; her friend Terri is looking for a lost yellow dog; her tutor’s son is released from prison. Effie relates the events at Dundee like a novel, with Nora interrupting to critique her characters, plot and dialogue. Similarly, Effie interjects into Nora’s story-telling. Atkinson’s character descriptions (and there is a large cast) are marvellously evocative. The description of the English tutorial (obviously taken from Atkinson’s own experience) is at once blindingly accurate and hilariously funny. The ongoing commentary on creative writing and the (over-)analysis of literature is clever and amusing. The atmosphere of early seventies is expertly conveyed. This is effectively a story (or several) within a story within a story, and Atkinson manages to include snippets of poetry, a play, a medieval fantasy saga, a crime novel, a metaphysical epic tome, and a Mills & Boon style romance, each printed in its own appropriate text style. While Effie’s story does seem to ramble on a bit, drawing criticism from Nora, Emotionally Weird has plenty of humour (some of it quite black) and enough intrigue to keep the reader engaged to the final pages. Another excellent dose of Atkinson.