Hmmm…. I will admit (as I already have on numerous occasions during the consumption of this book) that I may be a little lacking in the amount of intelligence required to “get” it. I imagine others got it from the beginning but it took me a really long time! That said: I think I finally did “get” it and so by the time I got to the end I was very glad to have persevered even though I considered giving up quite a few times.
Basically Nora and Effie are telling each other stories about their lives. Effie’s story takes up most of the book (and if it feels like nothing happens the entire time) with Nora adding her little bits here and there. All if it a long pre-amble to the point which nicely ties up at the end.
I think, in part, that Kate Atkinson might have been poking a little bit of fun with this novel. Of course I could be entirely wrong and maybe obnoxious, and maybe I should just shush with my assumptions… but someone once credited me for parallels in my own novel that I certainly didn’t put there on purpose and it was kind of lovely because I felt like it made me look clever so maybe other authors also like it when people go “oh maybe this is what she meant”.
The thing is this: I remember reading so many novels in the late 90s and early 2000s that seemed to have very little plot. Like you got to the end and you were like, “ok…but…and?” and it was quite confusing. I specifically remember these sorts of stories because they kind of made me feel hopeful for my own career as a writer. Like gosh, Nadine, you don’t even really have to come up with a plot if you’re not capable, you can just write things and then say it’s a book and no one can say “that’s not a book” because look here this has no plot and it IS a book it has a cover and everything!
So I think KA was playing with the idea of that trend a little. Poking fun at it. Pointing it out. Nora moans that Effie’s story is weird and plotless and that there are too many characters and how must she remember all these people etc and she bemoans the lack of intrigue. All the while KA is threading the story with actual intrigue that you only get to enjoy once you have consumed it as a whole.
So it’s sort of like those weird plotless books that I used to read in my late teens, but at the same time it isn’t because it’s only pretending to be that.
I’m quite impressed really.
And very untalented…