This is not my favorite Jackson Brodie book, but Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News? was a wonderful read – especially for the character Reggie. Despite the murders, train wrecks, kidnappings, etc., it is a surprisingly positive book, with lonely characters finding ways to make families, wild goose chases resolving not in surrender but in more wild goose chases, and characters developing and growing in satisfactory ways. Atkinson writes beautifully. She has a witty style and focuses on developing characters that she clearly cares deeply about; the crimes themselves motivate the action, but take back seat to our blooming relationship with the characters.
Atkinson presents brilliant throw away lines: “Just because something bad had happened to her doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.” or “A man with an Irish accent could sound wise and poetic and interesting even when he wasn’t.” She deftly sketches even secondary characters – we know Reggie’s mom even though she dies before the novel starts: “Mum had a Charles-and-Diana wedding mug that had survived longer than the marriage itself. Mum had worshiped Princess Di and frequently lamented her passing. ‘Gone,’ she would say, shaking her head in disbelief. ‘Just like that. All that exercise for nothing.’ Diana-worship was the nearest thing Mum had to a religion.”
This was not my favorite Atkinson book – I think that would be Case Histories – but it is such a treat, none-the-less. There are children in peril (and worse), the beginning is quite shocking (with a lot of foreshadowing, so I had to race through it) and I did cry (I am a crier), but it was a wonderful lake cabin read. I had hoped to savor it and enjoy the beautiful writing, but I could not put it down. I heartily recommend it to people who like to fall in love with characters, who like settings to be nearly visual, and who do not mind unresolved endings. (Also, I think this is closer to 4.5 stars for me.)