We’re excited to be featuring STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG, by Kate Atkinson, as our first read-along book. We’ll start out with the publisher’s synopsis of the book and then get the conversation going with a few discussion questions. Feel free to answer our questions, pose a few of your own, or react to someone else’s comments.
Tracy Waterhouse leads a quiet, ordered life as a retired police detective-a life that takes a surprising turn when she encounters Kelly Cross, a habitual offender, dragging a young child through town. Both appear miserable and better off without each other-or so decides Tracy, in a snap decision that surprises herself as much as Kelly. Suddenly burdened with a small child, Tracy soon learns her parental inexperience is actually the least of her problems, as much larger ones loom for her and her young charge.
Meanwhile, Jackson Brodie, the beloved detective of novels such as Case Histories, is embarking on a different sort of rescue-that of an abused dog. Dog in tow, Jackson is about to learn, along with Tracy, that no good deed goes unpunished.
Some general questions — quick and easy!
- What did you think of STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG?
- Have you ever read any other Jackson Brodie books? If so, how did STARTED EARLY compare? If not, do you think the book worked well as a stand-alone novel?
I thought the discussion guide for this book was outstanding and I’m not sure we can improve much upon it! Here are some questions which caused us to pause and reflect a bit and we’d love to hear what you think….
- At the beginning of the novel, Tracy offers a handful of cash for possession of Courtney. What were her motives and do you think her actions were justified?
- While STARTED EARLY is definitely a mystery, it is also a fine example of literary fiction. In fact, critics and booksellers have both classified the Jackson Brodie books as mystery and literary fiction. What are some of the elements of this novel that make it “literary fiction?”
- It was very interesting how the story went back and forth between present day and the 1970s. This format worked extremely well to not only present clues into Hope’s mysterious childhood, but it also demonstrated a great deal about the basic nature of human’s needs and desires. What were some of the themes about people’s behavior that struck a chord with you?
- Unlike the resolution we get at the end of the novel concerning Hope background, the reader never really discovers the truth behind Courtney’s story. Why do you think Ms. Atkinson chose to leave this story open-ended? Did you think it was effective? Or, did it bother you?
- One of the themes that was apparent throughout this novel (and other Jackson Brodie books) is lost or abandoned children. What was the role of “lost girls” in this story? And if you’re read any other Jackson Brodie books, how did this theme relate to other lost girls in Jackson’s life?
- Another discussion topic that really stood out to me (and definitely caused me to think) was the difficulty associated with becoming a mother. In STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG, the reader sees a number of women who have issues when they discover themselves facing pending motherhood as well as the loss of a child . Discuss some of the characters’ different actions in this story as they relate to motherhood.
- The title of the novel STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG is taken from an Emily Dickinson poem. The novel also ends with another Emily Dickinson poem called “Hope” (Interesting that it was also the name that Hope’s new family chose for their “adopted” daughter.) Why do you think Ms. Atkinson ended the novel on this note?
And here’s a fun one:
- What do readers find Jackson Brodie so appealing? If a movie was being made of STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG, who do you see playing Jackson?
We can’t wait to see what everyone thought of the book. Thanks so much for participating!