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Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

Human Croquet (1997)

by Kate Atkinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,371285,593 (3.65)79
  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 79 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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 |

I'm a big fan of Kate Atkinson's witty prose and oddball characters, but I have to admit that this novel had a degree of weirdness beyond that found in those of her novels which I have read to date. In a mix of first person and third person narratives, it tells the story of Isobel Fairfax, a teenage girl from a most peculiar family, who finds herself unaccountably slipping through pockets of time. And that's the most easily understood part of the plot, because as time goes on, Isobel's life becomes even stranger and increasingly out of control.

It took a while for me to get into the novel, as I found myself initially as annoyed by Isobel's smart mouth and sulleness as I had been charmed by Ruby, the narrator in [b:Behind the Scenes at the Museum|28940|Behind the Scenes at the Museum|Kate Atkinson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1316727258s/28940.jpg|29415]. After a while, the narrative became more compelling - but almost unbearably sad - as the reasons for Isobel being the way she is became clearer. Well, sort of clearer, because in many ways what's true and what's not is never entirely resolved as the narrative skip between various realities (or possibly unrealities).

The novel is scattered with literary allusions - the Shakespearean ones being the most obvious to me - and Atkinson's writing is rich in clever wordplay. But ultimately it's one of those works which is exhausting rather than completely satisfying and I can't help but wonder if lots of it went over my head. Overall, this was not an easy book to read and I can't say that the experience was one of unalloyed pleasure. The characters have haunted me though, so that says something about the power of Atkinson's prose.

This isn't a book to read if you need a linear structure, an easily comprehensible plot or a really satisfactory resolution. On the other hand, if you think you come from a dysfunctional family then you haven't met Isobel's relatives and maybe you should make their acquaintance. Or maybe Isobel's family isn't so dysfunctional after all. At the end of the novel I wasn't entirely sure about that point.

This was something good to share with my friend Jemidar, even if we didn't really know what was going on a lot of the time. If someone with a less interesting style had written the novel, I'm not sure whether I would have finished it or how I would have rated it. As it is, Atkinson's writing is impressive, but I don't like this novel nearly as much as [b:Behind the Scenes at the Museum|28940|Behind the Scenes at the Museum|Kate Atkinson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1316727258s/28940.jpg|29415] or her Jackson Brodie series. It therefore comes in at 3-1/2 stars. ( )
  KimMR | Apr 2, 2013 |
This book wants to be in a cage match with McEwan's Atonement, but, lacking confidence in itself, straps some badly explained timetravel to its breasts and tries to distract everyone.

Incest! Timetravel! Stolen babies! More incest! Family history! Teenage debauchery! Groundhog Day! Murder! All that....and more. Coming up next on What The Actual Fuck Channel. ( )
  cricketbats | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (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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Series (with order)
Canonical title
Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original title
Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
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Awards and honors
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.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:25 -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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