Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson: A review

Human Croquet is actually one of Kate Atkinson's early books. It was published in 1997. As such, I would rank it perhaps in the middle of her works as far as the quality of the plot and the writing. So, not one of her best but certainly not bad and well worth a read. (I don't think Kate Atkinson has ever written a bad book.) 

The book is set in a typical 1960s British suburb called Lythe. Lythe's claim to fame is that it was once the heart of an Elizabethan estate and was the home of a young writer/tutor named William Shakespeare. In the 1960s it was the home of a young girl named Isobel Fairfax. Human Croquet tells her story.

Isobel lives in a home with her quite dysfunctional family that includes a brother who is obsessed with alien abductions and an aunt who lives with many cats in her bedroom. Isobel's mother, Eliza, went missing when Isobel and her brother Charles were only children and they have never really recovered from this loss. Isobel's and Charles' father has remarried but the kids are not too keen on the new wife and Isobel, in particular, still harbors hope that her mother will someday return. 

Isobel is the narrator of the story and she has a wonderful voice. She is intelligent and witty but quite lonely and she had a profound longing for her mother which is central in her life. Isobel also has a very big crush, as only a teenager can, on a boy called Malcolm.

The mystery of Eliza's disappearance and Isobel's longing for her return dominate the story. We also get a good bit of Fairfax family history, along with Shakespearean references. And that would be my one complaint about the book; namely, that there is so much going on that it detracts somewhat from the main story. Nevertheless, Atkinson's depth of characterization and attention to detail are fully present and make for a book that is hard to put down and that the reader is sorry to see end.  



  1. I don't think Atkinson has ever written a bad book either, Dorothy.

  2. I love the sound of Isobel!

  3. This is an early one - that I don't know of, so thanks for educating me. It has a unique title too, which conjures an image.

    1. Yes, that title is very evocative of the story inside.

  4. Sounds like a splendid read to me. I can't say as I've read anything by Kate Atkinson, but I've seen plenty of her book titles around. People seem to really enjoy her books.


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