Emotionally Weird

Emotionally Weird

Book rating: 05 Paperback Black Swan

By (author) Kate Atkinson

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  • Publisher: Black Swan
  • Format: Paperback | 496 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 34mm | 360g
  • Publication date: 26 June 2001
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 055299734X
  • ISBN 13: 9780552997348
  • Illustrations note: Illustr.
  • Sales rank: 30,212

Product description

On a peat and heather island off the west coast of Scotland, Effie and her mother Nora take refuge in the large mouldering house of their ancestors and tell each other stories.Nora, at first, recounts nothing that Effie really wants to hear, like who her father was - variously Jimmy, Jack, or Ernie. Effie tells of her life at college in Dundee, the land of cakes and William Wallace, where she lives in a lethargic relationship with Bob, a student who never goes to lectures, seldom gets out of bed, and to whom the Klingons are as real as the French and the Germans (more real than the Luxemburgers).But strange things are happening. Why is Effie being followed?Is someone killing the old people? And where is the mysterious yellow dog?

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Author information

Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and has been a critically acclaimed international author ever since. Her bestselling novels featuring the former police detective Jackson Brodie, Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog, have been adapted into a successful BBC TV series starring Jason Isaacs. She was appointed MBE in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Customer reviews

By Marianne Vincent 02 Sep 2014 5

Emotionally Weird is the third stand-alone novel by award-winning British author, Kate Atkinson. It is the early seventies and twenty-one-year-old Euphemia Andrews (Effie) goes home to the family's summer holiday house on a remote west coast Scottish island where she shares stories with her mother Eleanora (Nora). Effie relates recent events in her life at University in Dundee; Nora, at first unforthcoming, begins to reveal facts about Effie's true heritage (like her real surname), eventually relating the history of the Stuart-Murray family, including the death of the aunt after whom Effie was named. In Dundee, while trying to meet essay deadlines for her English degree and thinking about leaving the incredibly lazy Bob, Effie becomes convinced she is being followed: there's this woman in a red coat; and a middle-aged ex-cop turned PI named Chick driving a white Cortina keeps turning up. There are a few deaths that may or may not be natural; several people around her believe someone is trying to kill them; her friend Terri is looking for a lost yellow dog; her tutor's son is released from prison. Effie relates the events at Dundee like a novel, with Nora interrupting to critique her characters, plot and dialogue. Similarly, Effie interjects into Nora's story-telling.
Atkinson's character descriptions (and there is a large cast) are marvellously evocative. The description of the English tutorial (obviously taken from Atkinson's own experience) is at once blindingly accurate and hilariously funny. The ongoing commentary on creative writing and the (over-)analysis of literature is clever and amusing. The atmosphere of early seventies is expertly conveyed. This is effectively a story (or several) within a story within a story, and Atkinson manages to include snippets of poetry, a play, a medieval fantasy saga, a crime novel, a metaphysical epic tome, and a Mills & Boon style romance, each printed in its own appropriate text style. While Effie's story does seem to ramble on a bit, drawing criticism from Nora, Emotionally Weird has plenty of humour (some of it quite black) and enough intrigue to keep the reader engaged to the final pages. Another excellent dose of Atkinson.

Review quote

"The lustre, energy and panache of her writing are as striking as ever...Funny, bold and memorable" -- Helen Dunmore The Times "Beautifully written...brimming with quirky characters and original storytelling. Kate Atkinson has struck gold with this unique offering" Time Out "Sends jolts of pleasure off the page...Atkinson's funniest foray yet...it is a work of Dickensian or even Shakespearean plenty" The Scotsman "Her novels are remarkable both in and of themselves, and as evidence of an important emerging body of work from a brilliant and profoundly original writer" Daily Telegraph "With just two novels, Atkinson has added new colour to the British literary landscape" Guardian

Editorial reviews

The author of Whitbread Awardwinner Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1996) indulges in even more of the postmodern game-playing that disrupted Human Croquet (1997). The year is 1972. Twenty-one-year-old Euphemia Stuart-Murray and her mother, Nora, are camped out at the crumbling family home on a remote Scottish island. We must get on, we must tell our tales, says Nora, and Effie begins with details of her adventures in graduate school just a month earlier at Dundee University. Shes living with Bob, a fellow student more interested in watching Star Trek, smoking dope, and listening to Led Zeppelin than attending classes. Effies not doing much better: she owes papers to all her professors and can barely muster up the energy to attend her tutorial, led by pompous Archie McCue, who spouts academic gibberish to his indifferent tutees. Interspersed with Effies narration are snatches from the murder mystery shes writing for another class; from Archies endless experimental novel, The Expanding Prism of J; from the heavy-breathing romance his wife is penning; and from other students work, including a Tolkien-like fantasy and a Beckettesque nihilistic drama. All of these highlight Atkinsons wicked wit without much advancing the plotnot that it matters, since the storyline is a slapdash affair involving various lost dogs, a ratty private eye, and lots of humor at the expense of self-important 70s radicalism and perennial grad-student aimlessness. Noras story, parceled out reluctantly at Effies urging, concerns her daughters mysterious origins; the final revelations about both womens parentage will not surprise anyone whos been paying attention to the heavy foreshadowing. Atkinsons jokes are funny, her characters lively (if cartoonish), but her scattershot approach to storytelling wears thin long before the end. Behind the Scenes at the Museum proved Atkinson can be playful and probing when she chooses. Fans of this talented writer can only hope that next time out shell concentrate more on emotional substance, less on narrative tricks. (Kirkus Reviews)