Not the End of the World is Kate Atkinson's first collection of short stories. Playful and profound, they explore the world we think we know whilst offering a vision of another world which lurks just beneath the surface of our consciousness, a world where the myths we have banished from our lives are startlingly present and where imagination has the power to transform reality.
From Charlene and Trudi, obsessively making lists while bombs explode softly in the streets outside, to gormless Eddie, maniacal cataloguer of fish, and Meredith Zane who may just have discovered the secret to eternal life, each of these stories shows that when the worlds of material existence and imagination collide, anything is possible.
‘Moving and funny, and crammed with incidental wisdom’ Sunday Times
‘I can think of few writers who can make the ordinary collide with the extraordinary to such beguiling effect…left me so fizzing with admiration’ Observer
‘Exceptional…Sharp, witty and completely compelling' Daily Mail
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'I want,’ charlene said to trudi, ‘to buy my mother a birthday present.’
‘OK,’ Trudi said.
‘Something I can put in the post. Something that won’t break.’
Trudi thought about some of the things you could put in the post that might break:
A crystal decanter.
A Crown Derby teapot.
A mirrored-glass globe in which nothing but the sky is reflected.
‘How about a scarf?’ she suggested. ‘In velvet d8Evor8E. I love that word. D8Evor8E.’
Charlene and Trudi were in a food hall as vast as a small city. It smelt of chocolate and ripe cheese and raw meaty bacon but most of the food was too expensive to buy and some of it didn’t look real. They wandered along an avenue of honey.
‘I could buy a jar of honey,’ Trudi said.
‘You could,’ Charlene agreed.
There was plenty of honey to choose from. There was lavender honey and rosemary honey, acacia and orange blossom and mysterious manuka. Butter-yellow honey from Tuscan sunflowers and thick, anaemic honey from English clover. There were huge jars like ancient amphorae and neat spinster-sized pots. There were jars of cut-comb honey that looked like seeded amber. There was organic honey from lush South American rainforests and there was honey squeezed from parsimonious Scottish heather on windswept moorlands. Bees the world over had been bamboozled out of their bounty so that Trudi could have a choice, but she had already lost interest.
‘You could buy her soap,’ Trudi said. ‘Soap wouldn’t break. Expensive soap. Made from oatmeal and buttermilk or goat’s milk and vanilla pods from . . . wherever vanilla pods come from.’
‘Mauritius. Mainly,’ Charlene said.
‘If you say so. Soap for which ten thousand violet petals have been crushed and distilled to provide one drop of oil. Or soap scented with the zest of a hundred bittersweet oranges.’
‘I’m hungry. I could buy an orange,’ Charlene said.
‘You could. Seville or Moroccan?’
‘Moorish,’ Charlene said dreamily. ‘I would like to visit a Moorish palace. The Alhambra. That’s an exotic word. That’s the most exotic word I can think of, offhand. Alhambra.’
‘Xanadu,’ Trudi said. ‘That’s exotic. A pleasure dome. Imagine having your own pleasure dome. You could call it Pleasureland. Isn’t there a Pleasureland in Scarborough?’
‘Arbroath,’ Charlene said gloomily.
‘With shady walks through cool gardens,’ Trudi said, ‘where the air is perfumed with attar of roses.’
‘And fountains and courtyards,’ Charlene said. ‘Fountains that run with nectar. And courtyards full of peacocks and nightingales and larks. And swans. And gold and silver fish swimming in the fountains. And huge blue and white marbled carp.’
They were walking down a street of teas. They were lost.
‘Who would think there were so many different teas in the world?’ Trudi mused. ‘Chrysanthemum tea, White Peony, Jade Peak, Oriental Beauty Oolong, Green Gunpowder, Golden Needle, Hubei Silver Tip, Drum Mountain White Cloud, Dragon’s Breath tea – do you think it tastes of dragon’s breath? What do you think dragon’s breath tastes like?’
‘Foul, I expect,’ Charlene said. ‘And all day long,’ she continued, ‘in the pleasure dome—’
‘Pleasureland,’ Trudi corrected.
‘Pleasureland. We would eat melon and figs and scented white peaches and Turkish Delight and candied rose petals.’
‘And drink raspberry sherbet and tequila and Canadian ice wine,’ Trudi enthused.
‘I should go,’ Charlene said. She had failed to recover her spirits since the mention of Arbroath. ‘I’ve got an article to write.’ Charlene was a journalist with a bridal magazine. ‘Ten Things To Consider Before You Say “I Do”.’
‘Saying “I Don’t”?’ Trudi suggested.
‘Abracadabra,’ Charlene murmured to herself as she crossed against the traffic in the rain, ‘that’s an exotic word.’ Somewhere in the distance a bomb exploded softly.
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'Exceptional...Sharp, witty and completely compelling'
'I can think of few writers who can make the ordinary collide with the extraordinary to such beguiling effect...left me so fizzing with admiration'
'An exceptionally funny, quirky and bold writer'
Independent on Sunday
'Moving and funny, and crammed with incidental wisdom'
'Kate Atkinson is at her most adroit, imaginative and subversive in this dazzling new collection of semi-mythical short stories...exploding with mood-making inventiveness and Aktinson's trademark dark wit...she takes the short story to new and playful levels'