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by Kate Atkinson
Little, Brown & Company, November 2003
256 pages
ISBN: 0316614300

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

NOT THE END OF THE WORLD is seemingly a collection of twelve short stories; yet, each story is intermingled with the others. The first story is about Charlene and Trudi. They are in a post-apocalyptic world trying to survive. Even though the world around them is crumbling, they are attempting to deal with what has befallen them. In a way Charlene and Trudi are sacred because their stories remain separated from those that follow them. One of the repeat characters is Missy, the super nanny. She has the ability to tame wild children as well as introduce them to culture and civilization. She is hired by a B actress to watch her son Arthur. Arthur is precious and extremely intelligent. Missy finds that Arthur, unlike her other wards, is not yet corrupted by the cruelties and greediness of life.

While every story seems to exist independently, excluding similar characters, they in fact have numerous subtexts in common. Trudi and Charlene have decided that if they want something they should be able to get it if they say the word five times. The other characters in the short stories have some how found this idea and try to follow it as well. In addition, the majority of the stories follow the idea that change and destruction are both a part of everyday life and somehow necessary. After all, destruction is merely a horrible type of change and change is vital for preventing society from becoming stagnant. The ultimate connection between the stories is not reviled until the very end. The ending is both unexpected but also evident after the fact.

NOT THE END OF THE WORLD is an enjoyable collection of stories. They are surprising deft; yet, slightly lacking in depth. It is obvious that Atkinson has an active imagination and she should be credited for this reason. However, her characters do not seem to have much depth. This is the flaw that is apparent in most short works; characterization is usually sacrificed in order to provide action and other plot elements.

Kate Atkinson is the author of several novels including BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSUEM. NOT THE END OF THE WORLD is the most recent addition to her repertoire.

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Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, November 2003

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