Wednesday, June 01, 2011

When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

Another great summer holiday read!

This is a story of love between a brother and sister (not in the crude sense you filthy minded person :) ) but how sibling love carries with it all the secrets, pain, and joys of youth all the way into adulthood. It is all about the strong bond between older brother Joe and his sister Eleanor (Elly) really cemented in early childhood when Elly entrusts her brother with the biggest and most horrifying secret of her childhood. It is this secret that casts its shadow on them throughout the book and shapes them into the adults they turn out to be.

The book is set in London, Cornwall and New York and spans a generation growing up in 60s-70s Britain and then spending a stint of their adulthood lives in New York at the time of 9/11 . But make no mistake this is not a story about 9/11 or a religious book as the title may at first imply, it is more about people coping with life and whatever it throws at them and forces them to cope with from cancer to terrorism, this is a raw study of the fragility of life and yet the strength that individuals find in themselves when strength and understanding is all that one can do.

The story's fluidity is fantastic and mind you this is a debut novel but the writing is confident, rhythmic at times if also mystical, whimsical and magical. Personally, I thought the strength of the book was in its first part and all the childhood trauma that happens there from abuse to first love whether heterosexual or gay. This is a family growing up in 70s Britain when gay rights and feminism were thrust at the forefront of social and political mainstream. The theme is rampant throughout the novel and the parents of Elly and Joe, particularly their mother are trying to adapt to the changing times by reading up on new parenthood and psychology material on how best to deal with their offspring.

This is a book of hope and the writer is very reluctant to keep her reader in darkness and despair although she succeeds in taking them to the brink. There are certain over-long descriptions at times and it's a roller coaster keeping up with Elly and her emotions. Is she a likable character though? That I will leave for you to judge and maybe let me know?

No comments: