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Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson: Review writers and company kate atkinson

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson: Review In her latest book, Kate Atkinson once again dodges the pitfall of genre to deliver a novel that delivers mystery without becoming formulaic. She speaks to Malcolm Jones about memory—and not taking her characters too seriously. Malcolm Jones 03.24.11 4:56 AM ET

Kate Atkinson doesn’t think she would make a very good crime novelist. “I don’t think I could write within the confines of a genre, even with the best will in the world,” she says, speaking by phone from her home in Edinburgh. “People keep telling me I’m a crime writer, and I do like crime fiction. But I don’t see myself as writing it. I’ve pointed out before that Dickens wrote about crime, and Dostoyesky wrote crime. But when I’m writing, I’m not conscious of that, and when I’m finished and people say I’m writing crime, I’m like, well, no.”

She has a point. There are indeed mysteries in her seven extraordinary novels. And the last four, including the just released Started Early, Took My Dog , have all featured Jackson Brodie, ex-cop turned private sleuth, And yet, none of these stories could easily be described as a whodunit or in any way action packed. In scope and purpose, they are much more daring than any run of the mill murder mystery or thriller. Their considerable charms lie elsewhere. And that, more than anything, may explain why, despite a raft of critical praise and a shelf of awards (she won England’s Whitbread Prize for her very first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum), she has never been a regular on the best seller lists. You could almost say she’s too good for her own good.

Started Early could change that. Without sacrificing any of the playful complexity that marks her previous work, the new novel manages to be more accessible, more immediately engaging. This has less to do with any effort on the author’s part to sell out than it does with her growing mastery over her material (Atkinson, 59, was a late bloomer, publishing her first novel when she was 43). Somehow, she manages to keep three distinct plot lines going at once without ever getting tangled up or diminishing the novel’s momentum. And here are characters as vivid as any she’s ever minted. There’s Tracy Waterhouse, a middle-aged Leeds mall rent-a-cop who buys a toddler from a drug-addled prostitute. There’s Tilly, an aging actress in the throes of Alzheimer’s whose brain is “like lace, delicate and full of holes.” And finally there’s Brodie, who’s hired to track down the parents of a woman now living in New Zealand, a job that will ultimately unearth another, darker crime a quarter of a century old.

All of them bump into one another at the outset, then go their separate ways for the course of the book, only to be haphazardly reunited in the closing pages. Coincidence plays a big part here and elsewhere in Atkinson’s fiction. Tracy finds a child. Tilly has lost one years before. Tracy unwittingly holds a piece of the puzzle Brodie is trying to solve. For good measure, there are two detectives in this story named Jackson. But all of these seeming connections are planted subversively, not to knit the plot together so much as to upend the conventions of genre, to remind us that we’re reading a story, something like life not but not life itself. Watching Collier, a television detective series in which Tilly has a role, Brodie decides it’s “crap,” because “real murder was disgusting. And smelly and messy and usually heartbreaking, invariably meaningless, occasionally tedious, but not this neat sanitized narrative.”

Readers do want more, they want those lives to go on. But Elizabeth Bennett does not live on beyond the page and have lots of children with Mr. D’Arcy.

There’s nothing neat or sanitized about Started Early, but no matter how many times Atkinson finds ways to remind us that we’re reading a made-up tale, she’s such a skillful storyteller that we forget her warnings within a paragraph. Almost against her will, she makes us believe what we’re reading. In part this is due to her playful but exact way with words, as when a suddenly alert character “meerkatted” to attention. It also has something to do with the sense of diffidence with which she approaches the world, a sense she shares with her recurring detective: “’I don’t understand,’ Jackson said. “He didn’t know why he didn’t get that sentence tattooed on his forehead.”

No one will ever accuse Atkinson of writing the same book twice—even the Jackson Brodie novels are radically dissimilar—but at the same time, it’s easy to see why her readers have remained devoted no matter wha ukspxmtn. mens watches rolext she wrote next (“No one demanded ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum II,’” she observes). All of her books are marked by an unslacking narrative drive. All of them resolutely refuse to indulge sentimentality. Atkinson is not one of those authors who thinks of the people in her books—or anyone else’s—as in any sense real. “These are just characters. Readers do want more, they want those lives to go on. But Elizabeth Bennett does not live on beyond the page and have lots of children with Mr. D’Arcy. You, the author, are using these people, which is an artifice. I’m quite harsh about that. The text is everything, and there’s nothing beyond the text. I think I’m no more manipulative than any other writer, but I’m quite conscious of that.”

But the main tentpole in her fictional world is memory—the stories we tell about our past, the way we select details, the telling ways we get things wrong. “I do have a lot of long-term memory. I can remember meals I had as a child. I can remember how things felt and smelled, how things looked. And those things feed your imagination and help you as a writer. So much of writing is about memory.”

“Behind the Scenes at the Museum,” a minutely observed chronicle of four generations of an English family, “is all about memory, of course. I had a huge amount of mail from people after that book appeared. Even now, I get letters from people saying, Oh, you remembered this and you remembered that. It seems to be a very important touchstone for people, that these things have not been forgotten. Even the tiniest, most meaningless things have been pinned down.”

In Started Early the demented Tilly has a moment of devastating clarity when she realizes that, “Reality itself was nothing. Everything was made out of words, once you lost the words you lost the world.” “I used to work with old people,” Atkinson says, “and I used to feel, what a waste these stories they had would be lost. I was like a vulture, collecting them, because I thought, if I don’t, those memories are just going to go into the void and never be recorded. And I think that’s something that writers feel, even when they’re making things up, like they’re rescuing something from the void.” Then she adds, with a self-effacing mockery worth of Jackson Brodie, “But I might be kidding myself.”

Plus: Check out Book Beast for more news on hot titles and authors and excerpts from the latest books.

Malcolm Jones writes about books, music, and photography for the Daily Beast and Newsweek, where he has written about subjects ranging from A. Lincoln to R. Crumb. He is the author of a memoir, Little Boy Blues , and collaborated with the songwriter and composer Van Dyke Parks and the illustrator Barry Moser on Jump! , a retelling of Brer Rabbit stories.


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Published by Doubleday (1997)

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Item Description: Picador USA, New York, New York, U.S.A., 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Fine. Dust Jacket Condition: Very Fine. First American Edition -First Printing. 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. First USA edition, first printing with a full number line starting with a 1. A fine, lightly read, copy, straight and tight and clean, in a fine dust jacket, now in a clear removable protective cover. Third book by the Whitbread Award-Winning author of "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" and "Case Histories", longlisted for the Giller Prize. SIGNED by Kate Atkinson, full signature, not initials, on the title page. Her subsequent novels have been universally praised and placed her among the finest writers working today. Not inscribed, remaindered, price clipped or otherwise marked. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 011103

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Started Early, Took My Dog Atkinson, Kate

Published by Doubleday, London (2010)

ISBN 10: 0385608020 ISBN 13: 9780385608022

Used Hardcover First Edition Signed

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From: Tombland Bookshop (Norwich, NFLK, United Kingdom)

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Price: US$ 12.64 Convert Currency Shipping: US$ 11.62 From United Kingdom to U.S.A. Destination, Rates & Speeds

Item Description: Doubleday, London, 2010. Hard Cover. Book Condition: Very Good. Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good. First Edition. 8vo.2010. 350pp. Slight browning to pages otherwise very good. Signed by the author. Very slight shelf-wear otherwise very good original cloth. D/w very slightly edge-worn. Unclipped. Very good. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Signed by the Author. Bookseller Inventory # 28545

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Bookseller Image Human Croquet Atkinson, Kate

Published by Doubleday (1997)

ISBN 10: 0385405960 ISBN 13: 9780385405966

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From: Hunt For Books (Blackburn, United Kingdom)

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Price: US$ 7.98 Convert Currency Shipping: US$ 16.65 From United Kingdom to U.S.A. Destination, Rates & Speeds

Item Description: Doubleday, 1997. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good. 1st Edition. Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson. 1997. Hardback. UK first edition. Signed to title page. Book and jacket in very good condition. Jacket has not been price clipped. Has school prize label to facing front end-paper. Clean throughout. Bookseller Inventory #HFB002184. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # 002184

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Stock Image Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie) Atkinson, Kate

Published by Black Swan Books, Limited (2011)

ISBN 10: 0552772461 ISBN 13: 9780552772464

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From: Russell Books (Victoria, BC, Canada)

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Price: US$ 19.99 Convert Currency Shipping: US$ 7.00 From Canada to U.S.A. Destination, Rates & Speeds

Item Description: Black Swan Books, Limited, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: Good. 0552772461 Signed by author. Bookseller Inventory # IM128151

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Stock Image Emotionally Weird ATKINSON, KATE

Published by DOUBLEDAY

ISBN 10: 038540882X ISBN 13: 9780385408820

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From: INSIGNIA BOOKS (doncaster, SY, United Kingdom)

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Price: US$ 18.26 Convert Currency Shipping: US$ 8.84 From United Kingdom to U.S.A. Destination, Rates & Speeds

Item Description: DOUBLEDAY. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. 038540882X UK BASED SELLER - SHIPS DAILY ALL OVERSEAS SHIPPING VIA AIRMAIL. * PLEASE NOTE COVER MAY VARY TO ONE SHOWN* First edition, full numberline. Signed by the author on the title page. Bookseller Inventory # EE0021345

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Started Early, Took My Dog 3.89 (24,270 ratings by Goodreads) Paperback Jackson Brodie English By (author)  Kate Atkinson Share Also available in CD-Audio US$21.85 US$9.54 US$17.24 You save US$7.70

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Add to basket Add to wishlist Description A day like any other for security chief Tracy Waterhouse, until she makes a shocking impulse purchase. That one moment of madness is all it takes for Tracy's humdrum world to be turned upside down, the tedium of everyday life replaced by fear and danger at every turn. Witnesses to Tracy's outrageous exchange in the Merrion Centre in Leeds are Tilly, an elderly actress teetering on the brink of her own disaster, and Jackson Brodie who has returned to his home county in search of someone else's roots. All three characters learn that the past is never history and that no good deed goes unpunished. Kate Atkinson dovetails and counterpoints her plots with Dickensian brilliance in a tale peopled with unlikely heroes and villains . Started Early, Took My Dog is freighted with wit, wisdom and a fierce moral intelligence. It confirms Kate Atkinson's position as one of the great writers of our time. show more Product details Format Paperback | 496 pages Dimensions 126 x 196 x 34mm | 281.23g Publication date 11 Nov 2016 Publisher Transworld Publishers Ltd Imprint Black Swan Publication City/Country London, United Kingdom Language English Edition statement New Jacket ISBN10 0552772461 ISBN13 9780552772464 Bestsellers rank 8,290