Friday, 27 November 2009

Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson

Emotionally weird=One Strange Book! And I had to start like that because I don't really know what else to say about it. I usually start with a brief plot summary, but there isn't really one in this book. Its a literature student recounting the events of a few weeks of her life at university to her mother, and at the same time trying to convince her mother to tell her the story of her life. and details of her parentage, which has always been a mystery to her.

The confusion Effie feels is quite understandable when her mother tells her she is a virgin, therefore not really her mother! And her father is unknown, or so she has always been led to believe. And to top it all off, her mother also reveals that her grandmother is not who she thought she was either. So whilst family details are the story that Effie is trying to extract from her mother, Effie is telling the story of her life at Dundee university. This is in fact the main portion of the book. During the short time she recounts she seems to lead quite an eventful life, peopled by lots of eccentric and odd characters. There are the odd group of friends, all writing novels, her layabout boyfriend, who is supposedly studying with her, but never attends lectures and spends his life quoting Star Trek, various quirky lecturers, and a private detective who seems to appear randomly and take Effie off on some odd adventures.

Just to add to the confusion, the story is interspersed with extracts from at least three different stories, these being the novels written for the creative writing class, including Effie's own attempt at a detective story. All these stories interlinked make for a confusing read, but the strands do come together in the end, and it becomes easier to follow which particular story we are reading at the moment.

But even Effie's narration of her life at Dundee is called into question as truth or fiction (probably somewhere inbetween). On various occasions her mother interrupts her to question her narrative, and Effie responds by saying its her story so she can do what she likes. She even writes two possible outcomes for a couple of occasions in the book. So although everything is tied together in the end, I was left questioning how much of the story is true, how much was elaborated and how much just made up. In fact this seems to be the second book like this I've reviewed this week. Start of a theme perhaps? Possibly, because I think I've got another one on the Library pile with that running through it too!

In essence it is a book full of stories, stories we tell ourselves, stories we tell each other, stories for both a public and private audience. It was really thought provoking and made me think but I'm struggling to do it justice here, possibly because everything was so interlaced it is difficult to write about. It was good though!

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