Have you ever had That Moment when you see a book and say, “Oh, this sounds good. Who is this author? Never heard of him/her,” and everyone else in the room stares at you as though you were from the dark ages?
I had one of these moments a couple of months ago when I spotted Kate Atkinson’s “When will there be good news?” on a friend’s bookshelf. She looked at me with a mixture of disbelief and pity, and promptly gave me the book to read.
How on earth could I have missed the wonderful writing of Ms Atkinson all these years, and a fellow Yorkshire-woman to boot ?
“When will there be good news?” is a skilfully and beautifully nuanced novel, with dark brooding themes, bringing Scotland and northern England to life in front of you, in dark, wintery brushstrokes.
The writer weaves together the lives, both past and present, of her characters, in moments that make you want to weep, others that make you fear for their lives, and many moments of pure laugh-aloud joy.
The ex-soldier-turned-ex-cop Jackson Brodie is the central pivot of the book, a man of integrity and honesty, a man capable of great love and tenderness, but one with heavy emotional baggage that he cannot offload.
The extra-ordinary child Reggie is a delight. Bright, resourceful, a little terrier of a girl who deals with drama and poverty and loss and death, with wisdom and common sense way beyond her years. She manages her buffeted-about life with a wonderful wry humour. She is the type of girl you would love to have watching your back.
How these two meet is as dramatic an encounter as you could wish. Reggie saves Jackson’s life. We know it. She doesn’t. Nor does he.
The object of much of Reggie’s devotion is the beautiful, charming Dr. Hunter (and The Baby, of course) for whom she works as a nanny. Dr. Hunter (and The Baby) inspire fierce love and loyalty from Reggie. When Reggie ropes in the injured Jackson Brodie to search for Dr Hunter (and The Baby) when they go missing, they form a mismatched but oddly affectionate team, bickering and quarreling, but both as intelligent and committed as the other.
Another link in all their lives is the senior detective Louise Monroe, trapped in a marriage she is surprised to be in, still baffled by the crockery and the cutlery, the crystal and the jewellery – all the trimmings that come with marriage to a rich man, who clearly loves her. He must do, poor man, since he puts up with a lot of downright bolshie behaviour from his driven, single-minded wife.
Louise knows Jackson, she also knows Dr. Hunter, and she also knows Reggie a little, and as their lives become ever-more intertwined, the plot hurtles on like a speeding train…but that would be to give away too much.
Read this marvellous book for the story, which is compelling, with some unexpected twists and turns.
Read it for the characters, who are totally endearing. Reggie is a firm favourite. Ms MacDonald is a beautifully drawn portrait of a dying woman trapped in a declining mind and body, surrounded by leather-bound Classics and mounds of unwashed dishes and mouldy food.
A wonderful, wonderful book.
“When will there be good news?” is published by Doubleday and the hardback costs £17.99.
If you feel like buying the book, after reading this review (and it is a fab read) then simply click on the link below.