Picks and Pans Review: Not the End of the World

updated 01/12/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/12/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

NOVEL

by Kate Atkinson

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The lines between conventional and eerie are delightfully blurred in this collection of 12 interconnected short stories set in London and Edinburgh. Atkinson deftly juxtaposes reality and magic, mythology and pop culture in conversational, matter-of-fact prose. She is as likely to mention Korn or Air Stewardess Barbie as the ancient Greek name of the North Wind (Boreas). Her subjects are equally eclectic, with mixed results. Those who like their fantasy enchanting and light might be uncomfortable with the sinister notions of a TV critic who has an evil double or a single woman who brings home a stray cat that becomes much more. But they'll cheer when a millennial Mary Poppins rescues the son of a self-absorbed celebrity. At her best, Atkinson does a masterful job with dysfunctional family dynamics, finding in single mothers and children mutual emotional deafness.

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