Book Review of Case Histories (Jackson Brodie, Bk 1)

Case Histories (Jackson Brodie, Bk 1)
reviewed on + 108 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1


It's a curious mix of dark humor and depressing mundanity. I simply don't know how I feel about this book. Reading it was an emotional roller coaster to me. I didn't like most of the characters but recognized their flaws, needs, bad luck, etc, as inherently human and grotesque. It's like a train wreck. You want to know what happens even as you despise the horrid things you see. The book is well written and interestingly done. It's a page turner and therefore very readable. I like the way the different characters and their stories weave throughout the plot somehow becoming intertwined in unusual (and not so unusual) ways with other principal characters.

I thought the female characters, with the exception of Caroline whom I found myself strangely bonded to, were truly unlikable, shrill, and downright mean. Jackson Brodie was the more feminine and likable character interestingly enough--as one character puts it he's "the last good man standing." It was strange how many of the male characters were the more nurturing and loyal while the females seemed forever pissed off, frustrated, and cold. Some of that was because of the oppressive and male-dominated world in which they found themselves subjected and restrained from their goals in life, but while I could identify with their plight, I found them all extremely obnoxious and similar. It makes me wonder who Kate Atkinson is and what she is like. She wrote that she finds it easy to characterize women, but if that is the case, then she must not know very many well-adjusted ones. All her women are borderline bi-polar--either running hot or cold. Always instantly judgmental or near hysterical, always mercurial with their identity, and very mercenary with their sexuality.

Meanwhile, Jackson listens to female country singers, wants a monogamous relationship, and keeps getting the fuzzy end of the lollypop for constantly doing the right thing. I really liked his character. I could see why half the cast of characters were in love with him but not why the other half hated his guts or why he put up with it.

I loved the beginning of the story when we are introduced to the first three case histories because they are true, dysfunctional and humorous depictions of many peoples' childhoods and early adulthoods. But by the middle of the book I was downright depressed with the painful mundanity and cruelty of everyone's life. No one is happy, except maybe Caroline who always has an escape plan. No one is truly likable, except Jackson, who is a curious sort of hero who constantly gets screwed over and gets up to ask for more. By the latter quarter of the book things are looking more up for our cast of characters and so the book doesn't end on *such* a dour note. The constant barrage of bad events are finally alleviated by some good events and happy coincidences that seem all the more brash and glaring and unlikely--embraced and tucked in amidst so many horrible events as they are. Of course you want something nice to happen so this critical reader is all too happy to let a few extraordinary events happen in a book filled with so many ordinary tragedies.

But I think I'll stick primarily to my epic sci/fi and fantasy novels. I like heroes who do extraordinary things to escape the mundane life. I suppose since we live in a mundane world I'd rather not dwell there too often in my imagination as well. Unfortunately I'm a little curious as to what happens next for Jackson Brodie, so I might have to at least read the second book in the series--when I've recovered enough from this one.