First Chapter, First Paragraph

First chapter

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or planning to read soon.

My opener this week is from A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson:A God in Ruins (Todd Family, #2)

30 March 1944

The Last Flight


He walked as far as the hedge that signalled the end of the airfield.

The beating of the bounds. The men referred to it as ‘his daily constitutional’ and fretted when he didn’t take it. They were superstitious. Everyone was superstitious.


“He had been reconciled to death during the war and then suddenly the war was over and there was a next day and a next day. Part of him never adjusted to having a future.”

Kate Atkinson’s dazzling Life After Life explored the possibility of infinite chances and the power of choices, following Ursula Todd as she lived through the turbulent events of the last century over and over again.

A GOD IN RUINS tells the dramatic story of the 20th Century through Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy–would-be poet, heroic pilot, husband, father, and grandfather-as he navigates the perils and progress of a rapidly changing world. After all that Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge is living in a future he never expected to have.

An ingenious and moving exploration of one ordinary man’s path through extraordinary times, A GOD IN RUINS proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the finest novelists of our age.

I haven’t read Life After Life, so I’m hoping that won’t matter and that this book will read well as a standalone. If you’ve read it what do you think?

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

Crime Fiction Alphabet – O is for One Good Turn

letter OWe have reached the letter O in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet and my book this week is:

One Good Turn (Jackson Brodie #2)

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

This is the second of her Jackson Brodie series. I read Case Histories, the first one, a few years ago and the third one, When Will There be Good News? just over 2 years ago, both of which I thought were excellent. So I had great expectations that this would be equally as good. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t think it is. It is good and I enjoyed it but I thought it was over complicated, especially at the beginning with so many different seemingly unrelated characters being introduced. It’s only near the end that you find out the connections and interactions between them all. And the ending did take me by surprise – a neat twist.

My problem with this book that I’d just get interested in one strand of the story and want to find out what happened next, when the action shifted to another set of characters. There is also too much detail, background information and flashbacks holding up the action for me to say it’s an excellent book.

But it is still a book that I had to finish; I had to find out what happened and work out the puzzle, because it is a puzzle. Like the Russian dolls within dolls (which also feature in this book), there is a thread connecting it all together. Set over four days an awful lot happens changing the characters lives for ever.

It’s summer in Edinburgh at Festival time when people queuing for a lunchtime show witness a road rage incident after Paul Bradley brakes suddenly to avoid hitting a pedestrian. The driver of the Honda behind him attacks his car with a baseball bat and then attacks Paul himself.  The one good turn comes from Martin Canning, the author of the Nina Riley mysteries, who stops the attack by throwing his laptop bag at the Honda driver hitting him on the shoulder.

One of the people in the queue is Jackson Brodie, who doesn’t want to get involved but who nevertheless gives Martin his mobile number and noted the Honda’s registration number. Amongst other witnesses are Gloria, the wife of an unscrupulous property developer, and her friend Pam. I got to like Gloria, a very sympathetically drawn character. Numerous other characters are involved – Jackson’s actress girlfriend, a failing comedian, exploited Eastern European workers for a housecleaning/escort agency called Favours, and Sergeant Louise Monroe and her teenage son, Archie, amongst others.

It’s complicated and full of coincidences, a very cleverly plotted book and as Jackson says:

A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen.

One Good Turn is also my entry in Beth’s What’s In a Name Challenge – a book with a number in the title.

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; Reprint edition (22 July 2010)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0552772445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552772440