Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson
Transworld Digital (e-book), 1997
Once it had been the great forest of Lythe. And here, in the beginning, lived the Fairfaxes, grandly, at Fairfax Manor.
But over the centuries the forest had been destroyed, replaced by Streets of Trees. The Fairfaxes have dwindled too; now they live in ‘Arden’ at the end of Hawthorne Close and are hardly a family at all.
But Isobel Fairfax, who drops into pockets of time and out again, knows about the past. She is sixteen and waiting for the return of her mother – the thin, dangerous Eliza with her scent of nicotine, Arpège and sex, whose disappearance is part of the mystery that still remains at the heart of the forest.
CALL ME ISOBEL. (It’s my name). This is my history. Where shall I begin?
Human Croquet is a great book. The novel is quite twisted but thoroughly enjoyable and reminds me of the author’s brilliant later novel, Life after Life. The book was enjoyable but nothing really great for the first one hundred pages then something magical happened. The time shifts in the narrative started to get more frequent and things got a little crazy. At this point, Human Croquet became something really special. I started to fall in love and fell all the way. I love the way Atkinson use time shifts. They’re written really well and I didn’t find the structure confusing as I have with other novels. The characters are flesh and blood brilliant. I loved Eliza even though there was something dark and twisted about her. I found her story and the truth about what happened to her in the woods incredibly sad. I’d highly recommend this novel.