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Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

Human Croquet (1997)

by Kate Atkinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,410315,365 (3.65)81
  1. 20
    Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (starfishian)
    starfishian: Atkinson has written books in a variety of genres, settings and topics. Human Croquet reminds me very much of Behind the Scenes; if you liked one, no doubt you will like the other.
  2. 01
    Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (bnbookgirl)

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» See also 81 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Kate Atkinson has been one of my favorite authors for a while now, and since I started reading her books after she'd published a few, I went back and read this earlier tale, which reminded me of her more recent work Life After Life in its time bending structure. It's almost as if this book was a test run for that, yet this stands on its own with its own special take on the flexibility of time.

Isobel Fairfax is an ordinary 16-year-old girl living an ordinary life in 1960, yet somehow, she can slip into the past for brief glimpses of her hometown as it was. Isobel and her older brother have been haunted for most of their lives by the disappearance of their mother when they were young, and Isobel's brother in particular, has been obsessed in recreating her, grasping at any artifact or clue as to who she was or where she is, while Isobel would prefer to regain their mother as a whole entity. Instead, they must contend with their father, Gordon, who returned to them after an absence of seven years; a cranky aunt; and a stepmother with odd obsessions. But how well does Isobel know the adults in her life? Who were they and, more importantly, how did they all come to this place in their lives?

The story unfolds as a historical treatise, starting with the formation of all things, then a brief chronology of the area of England the Fairfaxes have called home, an area William Shakespeare is said to have visited, ending with Gordon's early years, before returning to alternating timelines of present and the past, a past when Gordon, returned from WWII, brought home his bride, Eliza. Family secrets abound as Isobel seeks answers to life's mysteries and her own family's.

As always when I read one of Atkinson's books, I got caught up with the characters and their lives. They're fully realized people, warts and all, and by the end of the book, not everything is what I thought it was, and it's not too many books that can fool me and take my breath away as this one did. I hate saying too much because I'd hate to ruin a wonderful, surprising, amazing, ultimately uplifting, yet poignant reading experience this book is. ( )
  ShellyS | Jul 14, 2015 |
Re-read recently; I'd forgotten how very dark it is, having only remembered the quirky dysfunctional family (notably the awful Aunt Vinny, who somehow becomes quite loveable in a weird kind of way). I also like the alternative versions of events that run concurrently through the story. Not normally a fan of "magical realism", I do like this, and prefer it to "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" or "When will there be Good News".
  PollyMoore3 | Jun 19, 2015 |
I read this after being disappointed by Case Histories and Emotionally Weird, neither of which I liked. This one was okay. A teenage girl in a suburban village tells the history of her family (there’s a mystery there, of course) with some coincidences and elements that might be supernatural but don’t feel contrived. There are stories within stories. I liked it. She’s a good storyteller when she has a real story to tell. ( )
  piemouth | May 17, 2015 |
I have read many of Kate Atkinson’s books and enjoyed them all. I became familiar with the author while watching the Jackson Brodie series on Masterpiece Mystery/Theatre. HUMAN CROQUET is my latest Kate Atkinson read.
The story is a melancholy one and a bit confusing at times. The writing is very lyrical and dream-like. Atkinson’s unusual writing style mixes time travel and reality so that the present becomes a bit blurred. The chapters bounce back and forth from Beginning to Present to Past to Present to Past to Present to Maybe to Past and ending with Future and we shift in and out of events during these different time periods. It is a bit difficult to explain, hence the adjective ‘blurred’ being used a lot. HUMAN CROQUET is a ‘layering of plots’.
Is the Widow or Aunt Vinny Gordon’s mother?
Did the neighbor, Mr. Baxter, die by his own hand or his wife’s?
Did Audrey’s baby die? or was she left at the Fairfax doorstep?
How did the Widow die?
No one ‘looked for’ Eliza (or Gordon) after they disappeared?
I think I know the answers. But I read and reread a passage and am still a bit fuzzy with the details.
I like the prologue - setting the tone for the area.
I like the main character, Isobel Fairfax.
I liked the ‘Lady Oak’ as a character, a sentinel or symbol of the history of the area.
I liked the sense of place.
I liked the surprise appearance of a young William Shakespeare as a tutor at the Elizabethan estate of the then Lord Fairfax.
I liked the sense of ‘time shifting’ as opposed to outright time travel. This story is very subtle and multi-layered.
All in all, I did enjoy the subtleties of this book and would recommend it and other titles by the author. ( )
  diana.hauser | Jan 30, 2015 |
I like her writing but the book as a whole didn't really hang together for me. ( )
1 vote savoirfaire | Apr 6, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kate Atkinsonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tamminen, LeenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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This green and laughing world he sees Water and plains, and waving trees, The skin of birds and the blue-doming skies 'Ode for the Spring of 1814', Leigh Hunt
For my mother, Myra Christiana Keech
First words
Call me Isobel.
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Disambiguation notice
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312186886, Paperback)

Human Croquet is a game in which some people act as hoops while others propel a blindfolded "ball" around the course. Though the game is never actually played in Kate Atkinson's remarkable novel, Human Croquet, the parallels between plot and pastime are undeniable. Atkinson, winner of the 1995 Whitbread Award in Britain, tells the story of Isobel Fairfax and her older brother, Charles. The children's parents vanished when they were young, leaving them to the care of their grandmother, now dead, and their Aunt Vinny. Recently their father has returned with "the Debbie-wife" in tow, and they all live in Arden, the family's ancestral home built on the foundations of the original manor house that burned to the ground in 1605. According to family legend, the first Fairfax took a wife who mysteriously disappeared one day, leaving in her wake a curse on the Fairfax name. More than 300 years later, Fairfax descendants are still struggling with this painful legacy.

Atkinson's novel is obviously not rooted in dull reality. Narrator Isobel has an uncanny knowledge of past and future events; Charles is obsessed with the concept of parallel universes and time travel; and a faery curse hangs over everybody. Fortunately, Kate Atkinson is a masterful writer who manages to keep her world of wonders in check. Human Croquet is no ordinary novel, and readers who venture into the Fairfax universe are in for a magical ride.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:01 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Once it had been the great forest of Lythe but over the centuries the forest had been destroyed and replaced by streets of trees. The Fairfax family remained, including Vinny (the aunt from hell), Charles, the acne-scarred lost boy and Isobel to whom the story belongs.… (more)

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Average: (3.65)
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