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Emotionally Weirdby Kate Atkinson
Reading Group Guide
1. Reviewers have noted that his novel is the equivalent of a magic trick. How does Atkinson accomplish this?
2. Consider, for example, Effies writing assignment on Henry Jamess critique of Middlemarch as a formless collection of detail. Could the same be said of Effies story and Emotionally Weird as a whole? Can you think of other instances where Atkinson seems to be tricking her audience? What does this narrative technique say about Atkinsons view on writing and language?
3. Paranoia and the feeling of being watched—the constant reference to eyes and looking, Bobs paranoid exclamations, and even Atkinsons own linguistic agility, which reminds readers of her presence—is a theme which is present throughout the novel. How does this theme affect the narrative? Does it create suspense? To what degree is this feeling a fabrication and to what degree is it a reality in the world of the novel?
4. What does Atkinsons use of different fonts for the various narratives in the story accomplish in terms of storytelling and writing? Did you find it effective?
5. Is it clear that the narrator is extremely self-conscious—so much so, that shs constantly rewriting her own life story. How does this level of self-consciousness affect her credibility as a narrator? How do the constant interruptions to Effies storytelling (the water boiling, the wind, etc.) affect the autobiographical genre that Atkinson is exploring here?
6. The sequences with Effie and Nora on the island seem to take place in the present, that is to say, all the other narratives are stories from Effie and Noras past (and imagination) that they recount to each other. Why is it, then, that it is precisely these sequences that have the most dream-like quality about them and seem to be the most surreal? What does this say about the novel as a whole?
7. As the narrative progresses, more and more characters enter the story. Nora even makes a complaint to Effie, saying that there are far too many minor and side characters (p. 167). Moreover, most of these characters are also writing their own novels; even Effie herself is writing a murder mystery. How does this issue of writing about writing fit into the larger theme of the novel? What does it say about writing itself?
8. The shaggy yellow dog is a character in his own right. What does the dog represent in the novel? What is his function?
9. What does Emotionally Weird say about relationships between mothers and daughters? Does Effies relationship with Nora progress or regress by the books end?
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