Excerpt from When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

When Will There Be Good News?

A Novel

By Kate Atkinson

When Will There Be Good News?
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Sep 2008,
    400 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2010,
    416 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Harvest

The heat rising up from the tarmac seemed to get trapped between the thick hedges that towered above their heads like battlements.

"Oppressive," their mother said. They felt trapped too. "Like the maze at Hampton Court," their mother said. "Remember?"

"Yes," Jessica said.

"No," Joanna said.

"You were just a baby," their mother said to Joanna. "Like Joseph is now." Jessica was eight, Joanna was six.

The little road (they always called it "the lane") snaked one way and then another, so that you couldn't see anything ahead of you. They had to keep the dog on the lead and stay close to the hedges in case a car "came out of nowhere." Jessica was the eldest so she was the one who got to hold the dog's lead all the time. She spent a lot of her time training the dog, "Heel!" and "Sit!" and "Come!" Their mother said she wished Jessica were as obedient as the dog. Jessica was always the one who was in charge. Their mother said to Joanna, "It's all right to have a mind of your own, you know. You should stick up for yourself, think for yourself," but Joanna didn't want to think for herself.

The bus dropped them on the big road and then carried on to somewhere else. It was "a palaver" getting them all off the bus. Their mother held Joseph under one arm like a parcel and with her other hand she struggled to open out his newfangled buggy. Jessica and Joanna shared the job of lifting the shopping off the bus. The dog saw to himself. "No one ever helps," their mother said. "Have you noticed that?" They had.

"Your father's country-fucking-idyll," their mother said as the bus drove away in a blue haze of fumes and heat. "Don't you swear," she added automatically. "I'm the only person allowed to swear."

They didn't have a car anymore. Their father ("the bastard") had driven away in it. Their father wrote books, "novels." He had taken one down from a shelf and shown it to Joanna, pointed out his photograph on the back cover, and said, "That's me," but she wasn't allowed to read it, even though she was already a good reader ("Not yet, one day. I write for grown-ups, I'm afraid," he laughed. "There's stuff in there, well . . .").

Their father was called Howard Mason and their mother's name was Gabrielle. Sometimes people got excited and smiled at their father and said, "Are you the Howard Mason?" (Or sometimes, not smiling, "that Howard Mason," which was different, although Joanna wasn't sure how.)

Their mother said that their father had uprooted them and planted them "in the middle of nowhere." "Or Devon, as it's commonly known," their father said. He said he needed "space to write" and it would be good for all of them to be "in touch with nature." "No television!" he said as if that was something they would enjoy.

Joanna still missed her school and her friends and Wonder Woman and a house on a street that you could walk along to a shop where you could buy The Beano and a licorice stick and choose from three different kinds of apples instead of having to walk along a lane and a road and take two buses and then do the same thing all over again in reverse.

The first thing their father did when they moved to Devon was to buy six red hens and a hive full of bees. He spent all autumn digging over the garden at the front of the house so it would be "ready for spring." When it rained the garden turned to mud and the mud was trailed everywhere in the house; they even found it on their bedsheets. When winter came, a fox ate the hens without them ever having laid an egg and the bees all froze to death, which was unheard of, according to their father, who said he was going to put all those things in the book ("the novel") he was writing. "So that's all right, then," their mother said.

Their father wrote at the kitchen table because it was the only room in the house that was even the slightest bit warm, thanks to the huge temperamental Aga that their mother said was "going to be the death of her." "I should be so lucky," their father muttered. (His book wasn't going well.) They were all under his feet, even their mother.

  • 1
  • 2

Copyright © 2008 by Kate Atkinson

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...
  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.