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  • Tracy Sherlock

Review: Kate Atkinson's Normal rules Don't Apply doesn't disappoint

Normal Rules Don't Apply

Kate Atkinson

Bond Street Books and Penguin Random House Canada

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge Kate Atkinson fan.

British author Atkinson has written more than 10 novels and has won many more awards for her books, including the stellar Life After Life, which has been made into a BBC TV series. She mainly writes literary novels, but also created the Jackson Brodie mysteries, now made into another BBC TV series, Case Histories. Her writing is brilliant, witty, funny and always entertaining, covering the big themes of life, death, love, lost opportunities and second chances.

A new Kate Atkinson book is a big event for me. However, this one, Normal Rules Don’t Apply, is a book of short stories, which is generally not my favourite genre.

There’s a key exception. Short stories with links in them, such as minor characters in one story reappearing in another story, or different generations of the same family being featured in a series of short stories – those types of books are some of my most adored. Think of A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan or The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman.

Now I can add Normal Rules Don’t Apply to that eminent list. Atkinson comes through once again, in this linked series of stories that mostly circle around the same village in England and in which you need a pen and paper to keep track of the linked characters and themes that reoccur. As soon as I finished the book, I read it again, taking notes of the connections.

I don’t want to give anything away to spoil the experience of discovery, but suffice it to say, the title is the theme. All of the rules are broken here, in a way that leaves readers with the knowledge that life is so much more than it seems.

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