Book review: One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Book review: When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson

One-Good-Turn-coverOnce upon a time you could rely on a majority of British fiction to supply thought-provoking and powerful novels, and the power could rest with the characters and/or the plotting and/or the wit. Ian Rankin, Ian McEwan and Val McDermid all spring to mind, so I thought Kate Atkinson – a neighbour of sorts – might provide similar enjoyment.

Much recent British fiction reads like a D-grade pastiche of English TV soaps, the wooden and cliched characters straight out of Eastenders or Coro, the plotting artificially eisodic, and the vernacular an impediment in just about every ‘conversation’ between the characters. There’s a shallowness to both the characters and the scenarios, as if the authors haven’t travelled far from their homes – and don’t want to!

One Good Turn shows another thousand layers of that shallowness, with minutiae pretending to be depth and yet revealing nothing about the characters or the plot(s) or the time period or, even, the place. In the end, each character looks much like a row of terraced houses, or a modern suburban subdivision, with only a slightly different splash of colour here and there to provide insignificant distinction.

When Will There Be Good News continues in the same vein, bringing nothing new to the table, nothing new to the craft of writing, and barely climbing just the very first rung of the ladder of rich storytelling that was forged by the authors mentioned above.

The Americans, the Scandinavians, the Russians and the Japanese have stayed alive in the world, noticing and being involved in lifestyles and the other massive changes in culture in the past 20 years, all of which has been infusing and enriching their storytelling. Atkinson, and her ilk, are lost in the narrow and blinkered world views of the English. I say English here, rather than British, as the recent moves for independence by the Scots suggest there could be new, rich tales soon to come our way.