Today is the day for the Started Early, Took My Dog discussion over at The Reagan Authors Book Challenge site. So head on over there if you’ve read this book and want to talk about it- there are some interesting questions up so it’s sure to be a good discussion!
First up, here’s the lowdown on the book from Goodreads:
Started Early, Took My Dog
by Kate Atkinson
Tracy Waterhouse leads a quiet, ordered life as a retired police detective-a life that takes a surprising turn when she encounters Kelly Cross, a habitual offender, dragging a young child through town. Both appear miserable and better off without each other-or so decides Tracy, in a snap decision that surprises herself as much as Kelly. Suddenly burdened with a small child, Tracy soon learns her parental inexperience is actually the least of her problems, as much larger ones loom for her and her young charge.
Meanwhile, Jackson Brodie, the beloved detective of novels such as Case Histories, is embarking on a different sort of rescue-that of an abused dog. Dog in tow, Jackson is about to learn, along with Tracy, that no good deed goes unpunished
This is my first Kate Atkinson book, and I had no idea when I requested to be a part of the book tour that it was the fourth book in a series. But the title of the book was an instant draw for me, and I have a thing for umbrellas. Now for those that know me, I don’t like reading things out of order so I was a little worried that I wouldn’t understand what was going on. However, Atkinson is a great writer and while I never felt lost from not having read the 3 previous novels, she has definitely made me want to read them!
This book is not your average mystery, there is a lot of meat to the story. There are many characters with overlapping stories. This is a book that makes you think. First there’s Tracy, who impulsively buys a small child off a coke whore. As an ex-police woman, having dealt many times with the coke whore in question, she knows the horrible life that lies before the young child. But Tracy is already part of a bigger mystery, and another lost girl, which brings us to Jackson Brodie.
Oh, Jackson Brodie, he’s quite a man. Working as a free-lance private investigator, he’s trying to uncover the birth origins of a woman named Hope. His story parallels Tracy’s beginnings too- he rescues an abused dog from jerky owner (although Brodie prefers to pay in knuckle sandwiches and not cash like Tracy). He then proceeds to cart the dog around as he discovers many dark secrets regarding Hope’s roots. Brodie is the character from other Atkinson books, and you can be sure that he’s complex, interesting and tough. I want more Jackson Brodie!
Another character that really struck a chord for me was Tilly- she’s an aging actress with deepening cognitive impairment. Atkinson does a brilliant job of explaining the early onset of confusion, and it’s hard not to feel bad for Tilly. The way people treat Tilly, how dismissive they are about her undiagnosed condition, angered me. I work with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients quite a bit, and it’s hard to read about people being so impatient with Tilly- but how refreshing to have a character like her! I loved all of Tilly’s past recollections and her frienemy, Phoebe.
Tracy was the easiest person for me to relate too- I know that her actions of buying the young child, Courtney, were shocking, and maybe not the best way to get a child out of a bad situation, but it would have been tempting for me to do the same thing. I loved reading the scenes with her and Courtney in them, and the young girls habit of givings thumbs up instead of speaking. It just goes to show that children are very adaptable, despite the things that happen to them that would break most adults.
Here’s a few quotes that I really liked (from the ARC):
“He couldn’t believe the number of places that dogs weren’t allowed. Kids- not that he had anything against them obviously- kids were allowed everywhere and dogs were much better behaved on the whole.”
“The face of Vince Collier’s mother was familiar. Jackson tried to remember why but the tiny people who resentfully ran his memory these days (fetching and carrying folders, checking the contents against index cards, filing them away in boxes that were then placed on endless rows of gray metal Dexicon shelving never to be found again) had, in all too frequent occurrence, mislaid that particular piece of information.”
“When they were in the ambulance he asked her again, “Where’s my sister?” and she said, “Shush, you don’t have a sister, Michael. You have to stop talking about her.” So he did. He locked her away where you lock away everything that’s precious and he didn’t bring her out again for over thirty years.”
Started Early, Took My Dog gets a Midnight Book Rating of 11:30pm. I’m deducting a few minutes for all the J and T names that caused me much confusion in the beginning. But the characters are wonderfully developed and the storyline complex- the title of the book alone almost gets it a Midnight Rating. Now I’m off to find the first book in the series- Case Histories.
Here’s the Emily Dickinson poem that the title of the novel comes from: