Wednesday, January 17, 2007

First TBR Challenge Book: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Little Brown, 2004
Fiction; 310 pgs

Started: 01/13/2007
Completed: 01/17/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: How lucky were they?

Where Book Came From: I first learned about this book through Pages magazine and suddenly was seeing the title pop up frequently this past year in several different online book groups. I purchased my copy of the book in April of 2005, with every intent of reading it sooner.

Reason for Reading It Now: 1st of my 2007 TBR Challenge selections.

Comments: I made the mistake of reading a synopsis of a follow-up book, One Good Turn, while in the middle of Case Histories. Although the synopsis did not give any of the major plot points away in regards to Case Histories, I did discover a couple of extraneous details that might have been better left unknown until the end. Just the same, it did not take away from my enjoyment of this beautifully crafted novel.

Its praises have been sung by many of my fellow booklovers, but I had no idea what I was in for when I began reading Kate Atkinson’s novel. It rose above my expectations. At times comical, while all the while being serious, the novel had an edge to it that I had not anticipated. It was gritty without quite coming off as such.

Jackson Brodie, formerly a police inspector, earns his living as a private investigator in Cambridge, England. When readers are first introduced to Jackson, he is following a woman whose husband suspects that she is having an affair. It’s a typical sort of case and Jackson finds himself pondering his own life, his 8-year-old daughter and his failed marriage.

When Jackson is asked to look into the disappearance of Olivia Land by her two sisters, Amelia and Julia, he does not see much hope in finding new answers. The two women could not be more different from one another. Amelia is the rather plain and more responsible sister while Julia is a bit more reckless and free living. Olivia, a young child at the time, had disappeared one night 34 years ago never to be seen or heard from again. The discovery of Olivia’s favorite toy, Blue Mouse, among their father’s things after his death, raise questions the sisters want answered.

Then there is Theo Wyre, a father who still has not gotten over the death of his youngest daughter ten years before. Hoping to find some resolution, he hires Jackson Brodie to look into his daughter’s murder. On that fateful day 10 years ago, Laura had been starting a new temporary job at her father’s law office. Her throat was slashed by an unknown assailant in a yellow golf sweater. His identity and whereabouts were never discovered.

Shirley Morrison, the sister of a woman convicted of killing her husband with an axe, comes to Jackson in hopes of discovering the whereabouts of her niece, a child she had promised to take care of but had put into the care of the murdered father’s parents because she knew she couldn’t do it on her own at so young an age.

Kate Atkinson pulls all of these stories together in unexpected ways. Her cast of characters are colorful and yet shadowed by their life experiences, making them even more intriguing. The novel did include some backtracking now and then, the author telling one person’s story and then in the next section going over it from another character’s experience so that no parts of the story were missed. It could have been ackward and confusing, but Kate Atkinson successfully pulled it off.

Overall, I found Case Histories to be a delightful novel. The characters came to life for me right out of the pages and the msysteries involving the characters were captivating. I had a hard time setting this book aside for sleep and to go to work. I cannot help by ask myself why waited so long to read this book. I definitely plan to read more by this author.

Favorite Part: Although it’s not uncommon in novels, parents dragging their children along with them while the work for lack of better options, I have to say that I most enjoyed the way Kate Atkinson included Marlee in on the investigation. I quite enjoyed the interactions between Marlee and her father. I was least impressed with Josie, Marlee’s mother and Jackson’s ex-wife, who annoyed me on a couple of occasions during the novel.

Note about the Author: Kate Atkinson's first novel was Behind the Scenes at the Museum which won the Whitbread Prize in 1995, an unexpected winner over works by Salman Rushdie and Roy Jenkins. Kate Atkinson’s Top Ten list.

Miscellaneous: Thank you to Bookfool for the lovely tote! It arrived in yesterday’s mail. For those curious, it is a William Shakespeare tote from Barnes and Noble. You know, the one I’m always eyeing whenever I’m in the store.


  1. Howdy Ho! :)

    I have ONE GOOD TURN on my TBR list, but didn't realize that there was one before it. Are they related? Must I read Case Histories first?

    Happy Reading!

  2. Joy, as far as I know, they are pretty much stand alones, although the main character, Jackson Brodie, is in both. Maybe someone who has read One Good Turn knows better?

  3. I haven't read One Good Turn, but I did enjoy Case Histories, so it looks like one more book for my wish list. I was jealous about you winning the tote bag before, Kitty, but now I'm REALLY jealous! (just joshin'...congrats!)

  4. Case Histories is the only book I have read from this author, and I keep meaning to pick up her others sometime! I really enjoyed this book, too...looks like we have similar tastes in books :0) Happy reading!

  5. good for you! One down... never heard of this before

  6. Argggggh, Wendy! You've just managed to add another book to my list of books I want to read (joining this TBR Challenge is *increasing* my TBR list, rather than decreasing it, I'm afraid *smile*). Great review as usual.

    Wendy the Wenchie

  7. I've never heard of this book or this author. I'll have to add it to my wish list. Congrats on winning the tote!

  8. I just started Kate Atkinson's Emotionally Weird as part of my New Year's scheme for expanding my reading horizons. It's been very entertaining so far, and I think I'll have to add hers to my list of books to watch for at the library.

  9. I liked "Case Histories" as well. I think the format of the book really worked. When I worked in a public library, an older patron came in who had this book on hold. She flipped through it and refused to take it because she said, "I don't read short stories." I couldn't convince her that it wasn't a book of short stories. Oh,well. Her loss.

  10. Another one to add to my TBR list.. sounds good!

  11. Angela, Lynne, Wendy - I hope you all enjoy the book as much as I did! You can never have enough books on your wish/tbr lists, can you?

    Kookiejar - Thanks! The tote is very nice. :-) I want to read One Good Turn now too and try some of Kate Atkinson's other books.

    Kim - I want to read more by her also. Yes, I've noticed we have similar tastes--even if you didn't like one of my fave's, The Historian. :-)

    Nessie - I do feel like I've accomplished something! Haha

    Coversgirl - I saw that one when I was browsing the internet for Kate Atkinson's books. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Emotionally Weird. I liked the sound of that one.

    Malady - Oh, so sad that the patron didn't take a chance on Case Histories! I am glad you enjoyed it though!

  12. I know...The Historian was on everyone's top list, but I just couldn't get into it. Maybe I am not in the mood for it right now? I will have to try to pick it up again some other time! Happy reading!

  13. I did. I broke my New Year's resolution today big time. I just couldn't help it. I just *had* to have this book - and One Good Turn - to read. It sounds so good!!! I also bought like twelve other books but we just won't talk about

  14. Kim - I think I know more people who didn't like The Historian, and so you aren't alone. :-)

    Emily - I shared your comment with my husband and he just shook his head and said, "You all are a bunch of enablers." My New Year's Resolution went down the drain right along with yours!

  15. Wendy, I was so glad to find a review for this book when I visited your blog just now. I have, not one, but two copies of this book on my shelf and even though I know this book has got rave reviews, I hadn't really read any until I saw yours. Maybe I will have to take it off the shelf, dust and read it.

    Thank you!

  16. Hi Wendy,
    Thanks for the welcome to the Yahoo group! I'm looking forward to plugging into it. I love how you've decorated your blog. :):) What part of S. Cali are you in? I used to live In San Diego when I was little:)
    Definitely read Shadow of the Wind soon as possible b/c it's one heck of a read and leaves one dumbfounded it's so wonderful:) I lent my copy to my mom whose in the middle of it right now:)
    Hope you're having a great weekend!!

  17. Hey fellow Bookcrazy!

    This sounds like a good book, I will have to check it out.

    I'm with Wendy (Wendy the Wenchie), the TBR Challenge keeps adding books to my list!

    Btw, I love the cat pics. I just uploaded a pic of my reading buddy Isabel to my blog.

  18. Lotus - I do hope you enjoy it. Like you, this one sat among my other TBR books awhile. Do you think some books are like aged wine, better the longer they sit waiting?

    Bookwormaddict - Heather! So great to have you stop by. :-) I definitely plan to read Shadow of the Wind one of these days.

    San Diego is one of my favorite California cities. I wish I could afford to live there--I'd live there in a heart beat!

    Nyssaneala - Thanks for stopping by! I'm finding all of these challenges are adding to my TBR collection. LOL At least my challenge selections are all long time TBR books . . . I figure that makes up for it somewhat, right? Isabel is beautiful, the way. :-)

  19. I don't know of most of the books on your TBR. If I ever finish my TBR pile I'll have to look into yours. Nice book reviews.
    I'll be back.

  20. Wendy, it's me again! Congrats on winning the William Shakespeare tote, you lucky,lucky girl! :)

  21. Sarala - I have come across some great books by reading blogs like yours, books I probably might not have heard about otherwise. We are all enablers for our books addictions. LOL

    Lotus - Thank you! The tote is being put to good use. :-)

  22. I absolutely loved this book, but didn't think much of the follow-up. It really didn't have the emotional depth of 'Case Histories'.

  23. be_zen8 - That's not good! Just from the blurb summary inside the front flap of the bookcover, I can tell the book will not be like Case Histories. I hope to get to One Good Turn in the next couple of months.


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