Lewis Carroll lurks behind and between the lines of Kate Atkinson’s third novel, Emotionally Weird. His influence is evident in several of the characters, which include one ‘small as a dormouse and almost entirely spherical’, and in the dialogue, which is peppered sneezily with Carroll-like observations: ‘“everything’s got a moral,” I said, “if only you can find it.”’
The ‘I’ is Effie, who wanders as wide-eyed and wondering as Alice herself – sometimes accompanied by a grinning yellow dog, a bumbling mad-hatterish professor, or a baby – through a series of obliquely surreal encounters and adventures. But are they, in fact, real?
Effie’s story – set in Dundee University during the early 1970s, a shivery version of Wonderland – is framed by a narrative in which she and Nora (who may or may not be her mother) are surviving on an abandoned island off the west coast of Scotland, ‘a speck of