Kate Atkinson and style envy

I haven’t even read all of Kate Atkinson’s novels, just the Jackson Brodie series and a couple of the others (Behind the Scenes at the Museum and Human Croquet) but she’s a writer I frequently point to and say ‘that, that’s what I’m after’.

Like Stephen King or Terry Pratchett (both of whom I’ve long admired) Kate Atkinson makes it look easy and tantalisingly attainable. She has a natural, almost conversational style even when she’s sounding like Literature (with a capital L). She makes you care about the characters not because of their grand tragedy (though many of them do have tragic circumstances) but by details, little glimpses into their mildly disappointing childhood or a wholly inappropriate first love.

With her tightly connected web and echoes of actions reverberating throughout the book, she manages to make even the most odd circumstances seem somehow plausible. I know some people find the coincidences and neat connections in her novels contrived but I like the way it makes it feel almost like a fairytale. Which sounds contradictory, given I’ve just praised her seemingly down to earth style, but she has a way of taking something ordinary, presenting it as magical, and thus emphasising its ordinariness. If only I could work out how she does it.

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