Monday, June 26, 2017

Audiobook Review: When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

Publisher: Hachette Audio
Pub. Date: October 2nd, 2008
Length: 11 hours and 17 minutes

Genres: Contemporary Fiction / Mystery / Police Procedural


On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason's family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna's life is changed forever...

On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound...

At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV. Then a terrifying noise shatters her peaceful evening. Luckily, Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for an emergency...

These three lives come together in unexpected and deeply thrilling ways in the latest novel from Kate Atkinson, the critically acclaimed author who Harlan Coben calls "an absolute must-read."

What Did I Think About the Story?

I've heard such good things about Kate Atkinson's books and actually own a few of her books that I just haven't had the chance to read yet, so when I saw this audiobook available on Overdrive I thought it the perfect opportunity to discover her style for myself. In retrospect, I think this might not have been the perfect format for this particular story, given the twisted and complicated relationships between the various characters and the sheer volume of bad things that happened to them, and listening to the story rather than physically reading it might have hindered my enjoyment of the book overall.

My biggest issue with the story was the way that all of the characters seemed to overlap, connecting in so many different ways that it was hard, listening to the story in spurts during my commute, to keep up and remember it all. The fact that the narrator (Steven Crossley) didn't really alternate the voices of the characters as they switched around (which I know would be very hard to do) made it even harder to keep who was speaking, and whom they were speaking to, straight. It started to feel very boggled in my mind, which didn't really make the listening experience and trying to figure out what was really going on enjoyable.

I also should note that these characters are put through the ringer and experience every conceivable (or so it seemed) bad thing that could happen to them, which doesn't make for a "happy" listening experience if that is the sort of story you prefer. The story opens with young Joanna Mason being the only survivor of a brutal attack on her mother and siblings and the rest of the characters don't get much better. Poor teenage Reggie is living on her own, as best she can, after her mother died and trying to contend with her lowlife brother who's actions seem to put Reggie in danger. Jackson Brodie finds himself severely injured after a train crash and being dragged back into the detective business when all he wants to do is go home and wait for his wife to arrive back from a work conference. And don't get me started with grownup Joanna...bad things just seem to plague these characters!

What I did enjoy about the story was trying to figure out what becomes the central mystery: what happened to grownup Joanna Mason and her baby after they seem to disappear from their home one day? Can the suspicious husband's statement that they went to visit a sick aunt be true? Or is Reggie's gut feeling that something horrible has happened closer to the truth? It's a very twisted tale and I do love trying to piece together the truth amongst all the lies, even if I can't keep straight who is actually narrating the story at any given time, or how they relate to the  multitude of other characters.

I also thought the narrator did a great job of narrating the story, even if I didn't feel he varied the voices of the characters enough to make them distinctive. He had a wonderful speaking voice so it made the physical experience of listening to the story enjoyable. He also seemed to keep it feeling as light as possible, which is appreciated given the heaviness of what the characters were going through.

Overall I can't say that I disliked the story, just that I think I would have enjoyed it more if physically reading it and not listening to it in spurts. I did enjoy Kate Atkinson's writing style and did feel for the characters she created, even if those feelings were mostly sadness and pity. I'll definitely read more from the author but will probably stay away from the audiobook versions.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I don't really think anything of it. I'm not really sure who the little girl is supposed to be. I don't remember young Joanna Mason having a dog and Reggie, who does end up taking in a friend's dog, should be older than the girl on the cover. For me, it just doesn't really fit the story (or what I grasped of it).

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

I borrowed an audiobook copy of When Will There Be Good News? from my library's Overdrive account. All opinions are my own. You can find out more about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, on Goodreads HERE.

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