Sunday, 12 February 2012

When God was a Rabbit - Sarah Winman

ISBN: 9780755379309

This novel is sad and beautiful, like sunshine on the morning of a funeral. Winman writes about love, loss and reunion in a charming way, that is ultimately underpinned by tragedy; tragedy of the most personal and affecting kind.

The book is split into two parts, not a before and after, as the narrator Elly tells us, but bookends. Elly speaks to us first as a child and then as an adult, in a unique and creative voice that colours the world around her with her own personality. Winman does characterisation very well, in this sense, particularly with the odd and beautiful images that Elly comes out with. However, I felt that at the beginning of the novel, some of Elly's comments were too poignant or insightful for a child.

Winman presents us with what life is like if God is nothing more to us than a rabbit. There is loss around every corner, and a sense of hollowness as each character grapples towards something... though they are never quite sure what. Like Woolf's To The Lighthouse, there is a large section of the plot missing half way through this novel, which reverberates like the gaping hole in the characters' lives.

This work is brilliantly accurate and well observed, whilst also including magical realism in a way that shines like the book's cover. We are constantly left a little bit in the dark as to Elly's grip on reality, but that is what I found most interesting and satisfying about this book. This raises questions about the nature of a 'God' we are seeking or creating.

However, I felt like Winman was trying to include too much for a 300-odd page novel; the themes are huge. The ideas and question about memory that Winman brings in through the second half of the novel, though alluded to earlier, I think clouded some of the other issues that she was dealing with quite cannily and more consistently throughout the book.

Rating: 7/10

1 comment:

  1. I'm adding this to my wish list - love the review and the book sounds intriguing...!