Thursday, 8 September 2011

When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

Not sure what I expected with this book. With a title involving God, an opening that includes a child asking her family if God loved her and then the appearance of a talking rabbit it could have veered in any direction. I'm not really religious and wasn't really wanting to read a book that was going to heavily preach religion.

The book didn't try to get us to church on a Sunday however and reverted to a more 'normal' storey of a family set up over the course of several decades. It symbolised the end of innocence and new beginnings. After beginnings that involved the molestation of a young girl, homosexuality, and hints at a lesbian incestuous relationship (well sisters in law) and of course a rabbit that talks the main characters mum and dad with the lottery win, and move the family to the Seaside to set up a B&B.

Reading that back it seems not only very unbelievable but ridiculous and yet I didn't think so at the time I was reading it. I must admit it did take me a while to get into the book and even at the end I found that I didn't really warm to the main character. I keep referring to her as the main character as even now I'm not sure of her name (I know that's quite bad, hang on I will look it up...........Elly!). We discussed this at the meeting and a few of us thought the same, suggesting perhaps it was because she was the narrator and you warmed more to the other characters through her descriptions of them.

One thing we all loved were the characters found at the B&B - Arthur, Ginger and Ellys Auntie Nancy. They were so vivid and I so would have liked to have met them. The stand out moment for me in the book was Arthur and his coconut. I laughed out loud and won't spoil it for those of you have not read it by revealing all. This kind of compensated for the lack of warmth I felt for Elly and the second half of the book when they emerged certainly seemed to hold me more.

I mentioned above that the book in some way was all about new beginnings or fresh starts - the B&B for Ellys parents, her brother after 9/11, Ginger at the B&B. Yet nobody really got the chance to start again. Ellys dad never really escaped the client he failed, Ellys brother was never really allowed to find his new self due to Elly. It showed that no matter how you run unless you either leave behind all family/friends and, in Ellys dads case, your self/memories you never get the chance for a clean slate.

Jenny Penny was also an interesting character. I'm not sure what I made of her, her relationship with Elly and her whole prison sentence. We did discuss how likely it would have been that Jenny Penny remained in Ellys life (and indeed Charlie in her brothers life). I suppose this was yet another example of how fresh starts were just not allowed as characters kept coming back.

Sexuality or more specifically homosexuality was rife in the book and maybe that was why quite a few of us expected an incestuous relationship between Elly and her brother. We also thought at one stage that Elly and Charlie would get together after 9/11. We discussed the relationship between Ellys Auntie/Mother and Father and how a lot of things were hinted at so that when we came to discuss the book we were left saying things like 'was it just me or did that happen?'

The range was quite split for this book with it overall averaging a 6. Looking back it was totally unrealistic but for some reason you didn't question why the rabbit talked. I think the characters saved it. Just.

PS. I was also on the lookout for a repeat of the Quiet Belief in Angels meeting. No unexpected guests turned up but you will just have to read that blog to see what happened there if you don't know what I'm on about!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Book of Tomorrow Cecelia Ahern

Summer time (supposedly) so I suggested we read a summer book. Not a book set on a beach but the classic summer read - light hearted, and dare I say it chick lit. Gulp!

It was a bit of a risk asking a book club to review a book that normally, at least I, would steer clear of and perhaps some of us had preconceptions that were never going to be overcome.

The book wasn't your standard however. For a start it was told from a teenagers point of view about a teenager - not your normal career women who is disastrous in love then. It also started off with the main characters (Tamaras) dads suicide and Tamara and her mothers resulting bankruptcy and removal from the family home. Not your usual summer read by the pool huh?

The book then kind of took on your more usual chick lit format, introducing a love interest that had disastrous consequences. Yet it still twisted away from the norm by introducing The Book of Tomorrow. It was here that I think it lost some of us who found the concept of a book that predicts the future just one step too far. I didn't mind it actually, it wasn't the be all and end all of the book and if you just went with it rather than questioned how and why, it fit into the story quite well. Others in the group whlst not minding the appearance of the book didn't like the lack of explanation about it wanting a reason no matter how far fetched it was rather then the book just being presented to them and then being removed.

We all agreed that the underlying story about the hidden family history was quite interesting but was brought to an end quite quickly. I think some of us would have preferred the book to have been more focused on this side of things but then it wouldn't really have been a chik lit book.

I also find there is a certain style/theme that seems to come out with books based in Ireland. Maybe it comes from reading too many Maeve Binchy books but it always seem as though a nun has got to be present somewhere and Dublin has to feature!

We spent a bit of time talking about what we thought of reading a book from a teenagers point of view. This coupled with the magical element seemed on the face of it highly aimed at children. Did it manage to be an adult book? We thought it did although couldn't pin point exactly why. We discussed how it was unusual for a book from a teenagers point of view to be marketed as an adult book. There are a number of books (Harry Potter and Twilight being the main ones) that have teenagers as the lead characters and that have been popular with adults. But all of these were marketed first as childrens books. The Book of Tomorrow however (to my knowledge) never was.

Overall I think peoples minds had perhapsed been made up before they read this book proving that you do sometimes judge a book by its cover. It was disappointing but that was the risk I suppose. I found it delivered way more than your usual chick lit found free glued to your summer magazine and to lump it in that catogary is an insult to Ahern. This isn't the first Ahern book I have read and although I would say its probably the one I have enjoyed the least I wouldn't be put off from reading other ones.

Scores were far ranging this monthbut we levelled it out with a 6

PS for those of you who haven't realised Ahern was the author who wrote PS I Love You.