The Litblog Co-op is very pleased to announce its inaugural Read This! Selection: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.
In the weeks ahead, we're planning a variety of posts around this book, including appearances by Kate Atkinson, Reagan Arthur (the book's editor at Little, Brown) and others still to be announced. (See the post below for additional details.) But first, here's LBC nominator Lizzie Skurnick (The Old Hag) on why she nominated Case Histories:
My first instinct, when I picked up Case Histories, was to put it down immediately. Noting the muted, elegant cover, I decided it was one of those precious first novels where a woman lives on the edge of a lake, probably mourning a secret daughter who died under the ice or something. I noticed that another novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, had preceded it. Museum! Scenes! Straight to the bottom of the stack.
When it finally rose to the top, after I made a brief foray into the first few pages, it fared no better. Four young daughters... distant father. distracted mother... snooze. If I wanted to spend time with fanciful young girls tripping through the long green, I'd reread The Secret Garden.
But when I saw it mentioned on a trusted web site as an excellent read. I went back to it immediately. And, after the infinitesimally-slower-than-I'd-like first few pages, I launched into what remains, hands down, my favorite read of the year.
It seems impossible to believe that Kate Atkinson's sentences ever had an awkward stage. Each paragraph, each page, each chapter unfolds with perfect precision, the prose and pacing fully shaped. There's nothing flowery about the words, but no stripped-down drama either. Atkinson's a pro - a juicy pro.
The reader can also luxuriate happily in the plot. Now that I know her work, I'd be happy to read Atkinson ruminating on the benefits of fertilizer brands, but there's a distinct pleasure in watching someone handle what is essentially a stock murder mystery with expert literary precision. In short, while the plot could still hold up in the hands of a lesser author, and Atkinson's voice could carry a bloated text that went nowhere, thankfully, there's no need to choose.
People are undoubtedly going to question the nomination of a book that was reviewed in major publications and also received a fair amount of ad coverage. But the fact that that it was only its mention on a trusted web site that led me to commit speaks to the word-of-mouth power of getting anyone to stick it out on the page. I saw no ads, no reviews, until I'd read it. I don't think ads and reviews are really enough to sell a book anymore, unless the coverage approaches Sittenfeldian or Foerian proportions, at which point you have to read the book just to make sure you haven't already equaled its word count elsewhere.
Case Histories passed me by. I also dropped it twice, and I know I'm not the only one to kick something aside out of the pure fidgets. While the small press offering certainly has the harder row to hoe, great work from a behemoth can still fall through the cracks just because no actual person holds it up and says, Read this.
Now, on behalf of the Litblog Co-op, I'm going to pass along the favor, with a nod towards the person whose vote sent it to me. Say it with me: