Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson: Book Notes

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson is the fourth book featuring Jackson Brodie and one in which he doesn’t have a major role. It’s a complex book with several plots and sub-plots. The narrative moves between the past and the present day – sometimes not too clearly and is told from various characters’ perspective.

Jackson Brodie is working for Hope McMaster, who was adopted as a very young child in the 1970s and wants to find out about her birth family. Tracy Waterhouse, an ex-police officer is working as a security post in a shopping centre and can’t forget about a particular murder that had happened when she was a young detective. Detective Superintendent Barry Crawford,Tracy’s ex-colleague, with now just two weeks to go before retirement is also haunted by past events. Tilly is an elderly actress, suffering from the early stages of dementia. Add in to this mix a small child, Courtney and a little dog, called The Ambassador.

The book begins slowly and gradually builds to a tremendous pace. Brodie’s past keeps surfacing as he travels around in his search for Hope’s family roots, staying at Travel Lodges at Premier Inns, and in Bed and Breakfasts. He’s tired:

And truth be told he was tired of his vagrant life. He wanted a home. He would like a woman in that home. Not all the time, he had grown too used to his own company. (page 103)

There’s a lot in this novel about grief and loss, parenthood and responsibility and it paints a grim picture. The characters are well-drawn – the ex-copTracy, the child Courtney and the actress Tilly stand out in my mind as memorable characters, not forgetting The Ambassador, a small scruffy dog, who is ‘big inside‘.

It’s very much a book about consequences, full of regrets and lost opportunities as it moves, seemingly without reason from one character to another and from the past to the present. It’s a book you have to read with thought and concentration. I think It would benefit from re-reading, but my copy is a library book, due back today. Maybe I’ll re-read it one day.

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan (17 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552772461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552772464
  • Source:  library book
  • My Rating: 4/5

7 thoughts on “Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson: Book Notes”

  1. I’ve recently re-read ‘Case Notes’, the first in this series for one of my book groups and was surprised at how much more I got out of it. I think I had started to see the books as ‘just’ another detective series, when I don’t think that is how Atkinson envisaged them in the first place. I know that I now want to find time to re-read the other three and re-evaluate them as well.

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    1. That is a good idea, Alex. I’ve read a few of her books, some of them, though I borrowed from the library and I knew at the time I’d want to re-read them. I’ll just have to buy them!

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  2. I love Kate Atkinson’s writing, it’s so deceptively simple yet very complex at the same time, I’ve re-read quite a few of her books and always get more out of them each time. This one has one of the best titles!

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  3. I do love this author…and the recurring character of Jackson Brodie. You characterized the pace nicely here with “The book begins slowly and gradually builds to a tremendous pace.”

    I did buy this one, so I do hope to reread it someday.

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  4. Margaret – I have to say I really do like Kate Atkinson and her Jackson Brodie character. One of the things Atkinson does well I think is weave the different strands of her plots together. She also weaves her characters’ lives together too quite effectively. I think one sees that very clearly in this novel and I’m glad you’ve highlighted it. Thanks for the fine review. 🙂

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