Review by Booklist Review
Indeed, many laws of our universe don't apply in these interconnected stories from prolific, beloved, acclaimed English novelist Atkinson (Shrines of Gaiety, 2022). A divorced mother of adult children becomes pregnant through some kind of immaculate conception; children's toys are sentient, able to "hear the cosmic winds howling through the blackness of the void"; and then there's the actual Void, a recurring, rapture-like event that arrives with the scent of violets, making some people disappear and frustrating the sister of God, who's finally been given the chance to make (and remake and remake) the world. In one story, a man named Kingshott is a loathsome politician, while in others he's a loathsome surgeon, father, and potential father-in-law. Franklin (his middle name), the directionless son of a deceased race car driver and a colorful mother, is a particularly amicable character who appears, slightly altered, in several stories. Fans of Atkinson's historical and crime fiction will enjoy her tangible characters and their circumstances, so playfully imagined, and recognize at least one familiar rule, small shifts can lead to profound changes.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
This stunning collection from Atkinson (Shrines of Gaiety) is a master class in literary worldbuilding. These 11 interconnected stories happen in a world one step removed from this one, where human existence is regulated by the Void, a daily, five-minute apocalyptic event causing mass death. Here, characters proper to fairy tales, myths, and scripture rub shoulders with inhabitants of northern England in scenes from otherwise prosaic lives: recurring character Franklin, for example, who, over the course of the collection, meets a talking horse and a chatty dog, and finally drives off with Aoife, the bewitched child of a queen. In "Gene-Sis," humankind is subject to the decisions of Kitty, an advertising executive and Sister of God, who must remake the world from scratch while simultaneously writing a campaign for a new, healthy smoothie. "Blithe Spirit" follows Mandy, a downtrodden secretary to a disreputable politician, who observes the investigation into her own murder from the ghostly beyond. Atkinson delights in metafictional possibilities: young Franklin's idea for a novel--"A text based on non-linear dynamics, a Borgesian exploration of parallel worlds"--though ridiculed by other characters, mimics the collection's structure. If the concept sounds promisingly fun, the whimsical but sharp prose is built to match, full of speculative glee, but tinged with poignancy. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, InkWell Management. (Sept).
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A collection of short fiction in which anything can happen by the celebrated author of the Jackson Brodie novels, among many others. Atkinson's last book, Shrines of Gaiety (2022) has a single, charismatic figure at its center, a story that spirals outward to encompass a multifarious cast, and narratives that multiply and intertwine, the whole glorious thing energized by her impeccable ear for the English language, a willingness to experiment, and a sort of gimlet-eyed compassion. That is to say, Shrines of Gaiety reads like an Atkinson novel. This collection feels like an amateurish parody of her signature style, exacerbated by the attempt to tie it all together with recurring characters and repeating motifs. Franklin Fletcher, for example, is the main character of "Dogs in Jeopardy," "The Indiscreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie," "Classic Quest 17--Crime and Punishment" and co-star of the closing story, "What If?" Dame Phoebe Hope-Waters, the Rev. Matthew Dent, and a down-on-her-luck fairytale princess named Aoife pop up in multiple stories. There are talking animals. The end of the world happens. Violets--violet eau de toilette, violet candies, the flowers themselves--dot the text but, after an initial aha, this motif seems no more meaningful than an easter egg in a video game. It all feels like too much and not enough, and "Puppies and Rainbows"--the tale of a feckless, pill-popping American actress who has an affair with the young idiot who is second in line to the British throne--is an embarrassment that not even a cameo appearance by Dame Phoebe Hope-Waters can save. There are a couple of standout characters. Florence, the Rev. Dent's spiky eldest daughter, is a delight. And then there's Franklin--handsome, affable, rudderless Franklin. Lacking any will or desire of his own, he is putty in the hands of an author like Atkinson. It's completely probable that he will--again and again--encounter the improbable, and one wishes that his author had found a complete novel for him. Or even a fully realized novella. Atkinson's fans might want to wait for her next book. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.