One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

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I left writing a review of this book for a week or so to decide what I really thought about it. I enjoyed it well enough when I was reading it, but it didn’t really grab me. And now a week later, I have no idea why that should be as it’s a damn fine read. I can only suppose it’s because I was feeling under the weather when I read it.

Set in Edinburgh during the festival, the book tells the story of a group of seemingly unrelated people who witness an incident of road rage. Throwing convention to the wind, Ms. Atkinson starts off the book with a viewpoint character that isn’t the main character of the story. This threw me a bit: as writers we are told to introduce your main/viewpoint character as soon as possible and I felt a little as if the rug had been pulled from under me when this ‘convention’ was broken.

I did enjoy the multiple viewpoints used in the book, liking some of the players better than others, and while most people cite the ex-detective Jackson Brodie as their favourite, I have a soft spot for put-upon builder’s wife, Gloria.

It was only when I got to the end of the book that I realised it was a crime fiction, so light was the author’s touch. Ms. Atkinson weaves the disparate strands of her story together in such a masterful way to leave you gobsmacked at the end. And as for the twist? Brilliant.

I would say, however, that if you can only dip in and out of a book, reading but a few pages at a go, this probably isn’t the book for you. The multiple viewpoints would, I think, make it very confusing as to where you were in the story.

All in all, I’d say this was a great read from someone who is fast becoming a favourite author.
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14 Comments

  1. alberta ross
    Apr 3, 2011

    Although I enjoyed her first three books more than her detective books – this is my favourite among them – whatever she writes is so good that the above comment is not really a crit. at all – she has a way with the language which is so smooth – makes me want to give up sometimes! I like multiple perspectives in books and she manages it well.

    • nettiewriter
      Apr 3, 2011

      You are right, she does wrte beautifully and the multiple viewpoint was excellent – great way to tell the story. I mean, talk about an unreliable narrator! I don’t know what was wrong with me when I read it.

  2. alberta ross
    Apr 3, 2011

    Although I enjoyed her first three books more than her detective books – this is my favourite among them – whatever she writes is so good that the above comment is not really a crit. at all – she has a way with the language which is so smooth – makes me want to give up sometimes! I like multiple perspectives in books and she manages it well.

    • nettiewriter
      Apr 3, 2011

      You are right, she does wrte beautifully and the multiple viewpoint was excellent – great way to tell the story. I mean, talk about an unreliable narrator! I don’t know what was wrong with me when I read it.

  3. Glynis Smy
    Apr 3, 2011

    An interesting review. It sounds a book I should read in the summer. I tend to devour a whole book in a day during the long days. (By the pool…she whispers so’s not to upset, Nettie).

  4. Glynis Smy
    Apr 3, 2011

    An interesting review. It sounds a book I should read in the summer. I tend to devour a whole book in a day during the long days. (By the pool…she whispers so’s not to upset, Nettie).

  5. Ellen Arnison
    Apr 4, 2011

    I loved this and, in my book, Ms Atkinson can’t put a foot wrong.

    • nettiewriter
      Apr 4, 2011

      I know, I know – like I said before, I have no idea what was wrong with me when I read it. The more I think about it, the better I realise it was.

  6. Ellen Arnison
    Apr 4, 2011

    I loved this and, in my book, Ms Atkinson can’t put a foot wrong.

    • nettiewriter
      Apr 4, 2011

      I know, I know – like I said before, I have no idea what was wrong with me when I read it. The more I think about it, the better I realise it was.

  7. gussie robinson
    Oct 10, 2012

    I began reading this book over the weekend and I stumbled when the character Gloria was reflecting on her wedding to Graham. When the author used the “N” word to reference Gloria’s depiction of Graham’s brown suit on their wedding day; I didn’t understand the need for the word in that reference nor in the passage at all. What was the point? I am still lost here. It was disturbing to come upon and I put the book down and haven’t picked it up since. I just might package it up and send it back to the publisher. When I relax at the end of a long day of working and single motherhood, the last thing I want to curl up with is some racist author’s view. I mean why else would you use such a despicable word if you’re not a racist? Disappointed Actually.

    • Annette
      Oct 10, 2012

      With the greatest of respect, surely it is the character who is racist and not the writer? It’s like refusing to read a Stuart MacBride book because if one of his characters is a murderer, then so must he be.
      It has obviously pushed a button with you. It is a very dated – and racist – description of a particular shade of brown and one which I remember my parents using without being aware of it’s racist overtones. For me, Atkinson used language very carefully and precisely to show us exactly what her characters are like.
      But you are more then entitled to your views and I do appreciate you taking the time to share them here.
      Nx

  8. gussie robinson
    Oct 10, 2012

    I began reading this book over the weekend and I stumbled when the character Gloria was reflecting on her wedding to Graham. When the author used the “N” word to reference Gloria’s depiction of Graham’s brown suit on their wedding day; I didn’t understand the need for the word in that reference nor in the passage at all. What was the point? I am still lost here. It was disturbing to come upon and I put the book down and haven’t picked it up since. I just might package it up and send it back to the publisher. When I relax at the end of a long day of working and single motherhood, the last thing I want to curl up with is some racist author’s view. I mean why else would you use such a despicable word if you’re not a racist? Disappointed Actually.

    • Annette
      Oct 10, 2012

      With the greatest of respect, surely it is the character who is racist and not the writer? It’s like refusing to read a Stuart MacBride book because if one of his characters is a murderer, then so must he be.
      It has obviously pushed a button with you. It is a very dated – and racist – description of a particular shade of brown and one which I remember my parents using without being aware of it’s racist overtones. For me, Atkinson used language very carefully and precisely to show us exactly what her characters are like.
      But you are more then entitled to your views and I do appreciate you taking the time to share them here.
      Nx

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