What happened to the wonder-filled stories of our past? Where did happily ever after and once upon a time disappear to? Most of us just seem to grow out of them, losing the map to fairyland once we leave childhood behind. According to Kate Atkinson, however, this map is just around the corner.
“Not the End of the World,” her fanciful collection of short stories, is filled with wonder, mystery and fantasy that is enhanced by its setting in the real world. Places like London and Scotland are turned into landscapes where anything can, and often does, happen.
“Not the End of the World” revolves around many characters, most of whom are connected in small, seemingly random ways. Atkinson fills her stories with sagas of offbeat men and women whose histories are as colorful as a book of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales. However, the wide range of characters does not make up for the fact that some of them are lacking in depth. Some are strongly cast and skillfully woven, while others remain somewhat flat. This undercuts some of the stories’ effect and results in several which ,though not without merit, do not provoke deeper thought.
One of Atkinson’s strengths is her ability to change the tone of each story to match its content and its characters. She writes in clear, descriptive and extraordinarily adaptive prose that immediately heightens the impact of each individual story. For her, the transition from moody adolescent to precise nanny to angst-ridden orphans is an easy and effective one. In this manner, Atkinson’s stories both complement each other and stand alone, just as fantasy and reality are both strengthened when they are put together in combination. Human desires and emotions are investigated through strange phenomena. For example, she tells of a childless woman who adopts a very odd cat, a dull man convinced that his doppelg