Cover image for Not the end of the world : stories
Not the end of the world : stories
Atkinson, Kate.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown, [2002]

Physical Description:
244 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Charlene and Trudi go shopping -- Tunnel of fish -- Transparent fiction -- Dissonance -- Sheer big waste of love -- Unseen translation -- Evil doppelgängers -- The cat lover -- The bodies vest -- Temporal anomaly -- Wedding favors -- Pleasureland.
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Library
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Arthur is a precocious eight-year-old boy whose mother is a B-list celebrity more concerned with the state of her bank account than with her son's development. Then an enigmatic young nanny named Missy introduces him to a world he never knew existed.

Author Notes

Kate Atkinson was born in York, and studied English Literature at the University of Dundee. She earned her Masters Degree from Dundee in 1974. She then went on to study for a doctorate in American Literature but she failed at the viva (oral examination) stage. After leaving the university, she took on a variety of jobs from home help to legal secretary and teacher. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the 1995 Whitbread Book of the Year ahead of Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh and Roy Jenkins's biography of William Ewart Gladstone. It went on to be a Sunday Times bestseller.

Since then, she has published another five novels, one play, and one collection of short stories. Her work is often celebrated for its wit, wisdom and subtle characterisation, and the surprising twists and plot turns. Her most recent work has featured the popular former detective Jackson Brodie. In 2009, she donated the short story Lucky We Live Now to Oxfam's 'Ox-Tales' project, four collections of UK stories written by 38 authors. Atkinson's story was published in the 'Earth' collection. In March 2010, Atkinson appeared at the York Literature Festival, giving a world-premier reading from an early chapter from her forthcoming novel Started Early, Took My Dog, which is set mainly in the English city of Leeds.

Atkinson's bestselling novel, Life after Life, has won numerous awards, including the COSTA Novel Award for 2013. The follow-up to Life After Life is A God in Ruins and was published in 2015. This title won a Costa Book Award 2015 in the novel category.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Although they don't carry quite the emotional weight of George Saunders' brilliant stories ( CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, 1996), Atkinson's exceptionally entertaining tales display the same wild inventiveness. Sometimes the same characters and images (she is especially fond of wolf-skin gloves and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) recur in the 12 stories collected here, which, in the main, feature delightfully witty people marshaling their resources to confront a world that often disappoints. In Unseen Translation, a nanny who resembles a Marine Corps Mary Poppins spirits eight-year-old Arthur away from his wealthy, neglectful parents. In the more somber Sheer Big Waste of Love, Addison Fox, whose mother was a prostitute, carries with him the memory of being violently rejected by his wealthy father; however, an encounter with the man's legitimate children makes him realize things could have been much worse. Other titles feature people coping with the end of the world by going shopping and a woman killed in a car wreck who finds she is invisible, housebound, and addicted to Oprah. --Joanne Wilkinson Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Atkinson, who began her career with Behind the Scenes at the Museum, a Whitbread Book of the Year, and enjoyed good reviews for two more novels, now gathers together this suite of comparatively loosely connected stories. Atkinson's work has grown increasingly diffuse; her most recent book, Emotionally Weird, was printed in three fonts, representing separate strings of narrative. This collection takes that conceit without the typesetting extravagance one step further, opening and closing on two women who seem to tell one another the intervening tales. Atkinson's Scheherazades, singletons of indeterminate age named Charlene and Trudi, appear first in "a food hall as vast as a small city," and by the book's end which may or may not be the end of the world they're starving to death in a squalid, freezing flat in what feels like an apocalyptic present. In the women's restless imaginations, readers meet more than one girlfriend (in different stories, and each unbeknownst to the other) of a man named Hawk; a gaggle of perfect-toothed American Zane sisters; and a governess who may or may not be a goddess. Some of Atkinson's devices a giant cat who impregnates a woman with kittens, an evil twin who gets to have all the fun make for stories as simple as fables, but some, like the nanny goddess and the virtuoso, multiple-voiced "Dissonance," are sharp and memorable, full of astutely observed family dynamics. While not as intense or as unified as Atkinson's full-length work, this is a sharp and wholly original collection. (Dec. 3) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

These linked stories transport us to a near-recognizable future in the aftermath of an unidentified global malfunction-not the end of the world but close to it. Throughout, the quirky characters morph and then reappear as their former selves. The first story centers on Arthur, the surprisingly solemn eight-year-old son of a tabloid celebrity mother who abandons him to pursue a career in Hollywood, leaving him in the care of his no-nonsense nanny, Missy. Missy spirits Arthur away to the Continent, where he sees incredible new things-like his missing father. Elsewhere, we meet Fletcher, a media journalist dismayed by reports of his carousing behavior during evenings he cannot remember, who videotapes himself sleeping in order to discover the truth. And after being killed in a car accident, Marianne returns home to observe her family carrying on without her. Some months later, she returns to life, none the worse for her time spent as a ghost. These jazzy, offbeat stories studded with pop cultural references will appeal to Atkinson's fans and to all readers of smart, trendy fiction. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/03.]-Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1 CHARLINE AND TRUDI GO SHOPPING I want,' Charlene said to Trudi, 'to buy my mother a birthday present.' 'OK,' Trudi said. 'Something I can put in the post. Something that won't break.' Trudi thought about some of the things you could put in the post that might break: A crystal decanter. A fingernail. An egg. A heart. A Crown Derby teapot. A promise. A mirrored-glass globe in which nothing but the sky is reflected. 'How about a scarf?' she suggested. 'In velvet dévoré. I love that word. Dévoré.' Charlene and Trudi were in a food hall as vast as a small city. It smelt of chocolate and ripe cheese and raw meaty bacon but most of the food was too expensive to buy and some of it didn't look real. They wandered along an avenue of honey. 'I could buy a jar of honey,' Trudi said. 'You could,' Charlene agreed. There was plenty of honey to choose from. There was lavender honey and rosemary honey, acacia and orange blossom and mysterious manuka. Butter-yellow honey from Tuscan sunflowers and thick, anaemic honey from English clover. There were huge jars like ancient amphorae and neat spinster-sized pots. There were jars of cut-comb honey that looked like seeded amber. There was organic honey from lush South American rainforests and there was honey squeezed from parsimonious Scottish heather on windswept moorlands. Bees the world over had been bamboozled out of their bounty so that Trudi could have a choice, but she had already lost interest. 'You could buy her soap,' Trudi said. 'Soap wouldn't break. Expensive soap. Made from oatmeal and buttermilk or goat's milk and vanilla pods from . . . wherever vanilla pods come from.' 'Mauritius. Mainly,' Charlene said. 'If you say so. Soap for which ten thousand violet petals have been crushed and distilled to provide one drop of oil. Or soap scented with the zest of a hundred bittersweet oranges.' 'I'm hungry. I could buy an orange,' Charlene said. 'You could. Seville or Moroccan?' 'Moorish,' Charlene said dreamily. 'I would like to visit a Moorish palace. The Alhambra. That's an exotic word. That's the most exotic word I can think of, offhand. Alhambra.' 'Xanadu,' Trudi said. 'That's exotic. A pleasure dome. Imagine having your own pleasure dome. You could call it Pleasureland. Isn't there a Pleasureland in Scarborough?' 'Arbroath,' Charlene said gloomily. 'With shady walks through cool gardens,' Trudi said, 'where the air is perfumed with attar of roses.' 'And fountains and courtyards,' Charlene said. 'Fountains that run with nectar. And courtyards full of peacocks and nightingales and larks. And swans. And gold and silver fish swimming in the fountains. And huge blue and white marbled carp.' They were walking down a street of teas. They were lost. 'Who would think there were so many different teas in the world?' Trudi mused. 'Chrysanthemum tea, White Peony, Jade Peak, Oriental Beauty Oolong, Green Gunpowder, Golden Needle, Hubei Silver Tip, Drum Mountain White Cloud, Dragon's Breath tea -- do you think it tastes of dragon's breath? What do you think dragon's breath tastes like?' 'Foul, I expect,' Charlene said. 'And all day long,' she continued, 'in the pleasure dome-' 'Pleasureland,' Trudi corrected. 'Pleasureland. We would eat melon and figs and scented white peaches and Turkish Delight and candied rose petals.' 'And drink raspberry sherbet and tequila and Canadian ice wine,' Trudi enthused. 'I should go,' Charlene said. She had failed to recover her spirits since the mention of Arbroath. 'I've got an article to write.' Charlene was a journalist with a bridal magazine. 'Ten Things To Consider Before You Say "I Do".' 'Saying "I Don't"?' Trudi suggested. 'Abracadabra,' Charlene murmured to herself as she crossed against the traffic in the rain, 'that's an exotic word.' Somewhere in the distance a bomb exploded softly. It had been raining for weeks. There were no taxis outside the radio station. Charlene was worried that she was developing a crush on the man who searched her handbag in the reception at the radio station. 'I know he's quite short,' she said to Trudi, 'but he's sort of manly.' 'I once went out with a short man,' Trudi said. 'I never realized just how short he was until after I'd left him.' There were no taxis at the rank. There were no taxis dropping anyone off at the radio station. Trudi frowned. 'When did you last see a taxi?' Charlene and Trudi ran from the radio station, ran from the rain, past the sandbags lining the streets, into the warm, dispassionate space of the nearest hotel and sat in the smoky lounge and ordered tea. 'I think he's ex-military or something.' 'Who?' 'The man who searches the bags at the radio station.' A waitress brought them weak green tea. They sipped their tea daintily -- an adverb dictated by the awkward handles of the cups. 'I've always wanted to go out with a man in a uniform,' Trudi said. 'A fireman,' Charlene suggested. 'Mm,' Trudi said thoughtfully. 'Or a policeman,' Charlene said. 'But not a constable.' 'No, not a constable,' Charlene agreed. 'An inspector.' 'An army captain,' Trudi said, 'or maybe a naval helicopter pilot.' The weak green tea was bitter. 'This could be Dragon's Breath tea, for all we know,' Trudi said. 'Do you think it is? Dragon's breath?' There was no air in the hotel. Two large, middle-aged women were eating scones with quiet determination. A well-known journalist was seducing a girl who was too young. Two very old men were speaking in low pleasant tones to each other about music and ancient wars. 'Thermopylae,' the men murmured. 'Aegospotami, Cumae. The "Dissonant Quartet".' 'I really want a cat,' Trudi said. 'You can't keep a cat in town,' Charlene said. 'You can't keep a cat down?' 'You can't keep a cat in town .' 'You can.' 'You need something small like a rodent,' Charlene said. 'A capybara's a rodent, it's not small.' 'A hamster,' Charlene said, 'a gerbil, a small white mouse.' 'I don't want a rodent. Of any size. I want a cat. Kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty. If you say something five times you always get it.' 'You made that up,' Charlene said. 'True,' Trudi admitted. 'I'd like something more unusual,' Charlene said. 'A kangaroo. A reindeer or an otter. A talking bird or a singing fish.' 'A singing fish?' 'A singing fish. A fish that sings and has a magic ring in its stomach. A huge carp that is caught in a fishpond -- usually at a royal court somewhere -- and cooked and served at the table and when you bite into the fish you find a magic ring. And the magic ring will lead you to the man who will love you. Or the small white mouse which is the disguise of the man who will love you.' 'That would be a rodent then.' 'Failing that,' Charlene continued, ignoring Trudi, 'I would like a cat as big as a man.' 'A cat as big as a man?' Trudi frowned, trying to picture a man-sized cat. 'Yes. Imagine if men had fur.' 'I think I'd rather not.' The waitress asked them if they wanted more of the weak green tea. 'For myself,' the waitress said, uninvited, 'I prefer dogs.' Charlene and Trudi swooned with delight at the idea of dogs. 'Oh God,' Trudi said, overcome by all the breeds of dog in the world, 'a German Shepherd, a Golden Retriever, a Great Dane, a Borzoi -- what a great word -- a St Bernard, a Scottie, a Westie, a Yorkie. An Austrian Pinscher, a Belgian Griffon, a Kromfohrlanders. The Glen of Imaal Terrier, the Manchester, Norwich, English Toy, Staffordshire, Bedlington - all terriers also. The Kai, the Podengo Portugueso Medio, the Porcelaine and the Spanish Greyhound. The Bloodhound, the Lurcher, the Dunker, the Catahoula Leopard Dog, the Hungarian Vizsla, the Lancashire Heeler and the Giant German Spitz!' 'Or a mongrel called Buster or Spike,' Charlene said. The waitress cleared away their tea things. 'Money, money, money, money, money,' she whispered to herself as she bumped open the door to the kitchen with her hip. The electricity failed and everyone was suddenly very quiet. No one had realized how dark the rain had made the afternoon. Excerpted from Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

I Charlene and Trudi Go Shoppingp. 1
II Tunnel of Fishp. 21
III Transparent Fictionp. 41
IV Dissonancep. 61
V Sheer Big Waste of Lovep. 85
VI Unseen Translationp. 111
VII Evil Doppelgangersp. 133
VIII The Cat Loverp. 159
IX The Bodies Vestp. 175
X Temporal Anomalyp. 193
XI Wedding Favorsp. 213
XII Pleasurelandp. 233
Acknowledgmentsp. 245
Illustration Creditsp. 246