Human Croquet [Kate Atkinson]
I originally gave Human Croquet a 4/5, but now that I've been removed from it for about a week and have had time to mull it over a little, I've bumped it up.
I had to read this book for a class, and I knew absolutely nothing about it going in. I'd never heard of either the book or the author. When it arrived in the mail, all I could focus on was how whimsical and fun the cover looked. Then I read the synopsis on the back. The first line says, "Part fairy tale, part mystery, part coming-of-age novel, this is the story of Isobel Fairfax, a girl growing up in Lythe, a typical 1960's British suburb."
WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT FROM A BOOK??
I'm not going to go into too much about the plot, because I think not knowing about it adds to the fun of it.
That being said, there is so much to consider in this book. It literally has a little bit of everything: fairy tale references, Shakespeare, time travel, alien conspiracy theories, disappearances, a general air of mystery, etc. It also deals with a LOT of bigger issues such as domestic violence, kidnapping, prostitution, and death. Like I said: literally everything. There was a lot more depth to this novel than I anticipated. It also is one of the most spectacularly written books I've read. As I was going through it, I spent most of the time being really frustrated because I wasn't every exactly sure what was going on, and I had no clue how it was all going to work out. I also wasn't convinced that I was going to get closure in the end. Then, after I finished it, I still couldn't articulate my feelings about it or what happened. But even though I was as frustrated and confused as I was, I was still in love with the book and characters. I still cared about what was going on. Lots of conflicting feelings. All the time.
It's one of those books that needs to be read twice. The first time, so you can get the basics of the story, and then a second time, so you can see exactly where certain things are mentioned and how it all ties together. Human Croquet is quite brilliantly written, especially when you take the time to go back and see how/where Atkinson sets things up, because it is subtle. There were several tiny and seemingly insignificant details from the first 50 pages of the book that result in much greater plot points towards the end. It's fantastic!!
This book is so much fun, and kind of all over the place, but it is an awesome experience. Especially if you like weird, down-the-rabbit-hole sorts of tales. (Seriously, there are SO MANY references to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. So many.)