Thursday, 5 May 2011

When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman

Title: When God Was A Rabbit
Author: Sarah Winman
Publisher: Headline
Published: March 2011
ISBN: 9780 755379286

Rating 3/5

The cover on this is fairly whimsical, with two characters on the front page and the title taking up most of the cover.  I've tried not to give too much detail of the story, but there are a couple of spoilers, simply because I want to clearly give my reasons for rating it as I have.

First off....this isn't anything to do with religion (just in case you thought the title meant it was!) It is about a family, but concentrates mainly on the relationship between siblings throughout childhood and beyond.  The title comes from one of the children naming her rabbit God.

This is about the innocence of children and the naivety.  About the very special relationship siblings have, some which involve carrying secrets and keeping them, regardless of the outcome...some which have impact throughout their lives.  There were some really poignant and spot on bits in this, like when the youngest comes out with totally out of context pieces of information when adults are in conversation (classic!)...I think every parent has to censor some of what they say in front of little ears at some point so as not to be quoted at  inconvenient moments ;p

Towards the end this was a complete tidal wave of emotions for me as a reader, not knowing what the outcome or fate of one of the siblings was.  Starting again is a big theme in this.  Most of the story draws from past history and incorporates real events to give readers a time line to work with. 

Whilst I liked the main characters, for me, some of what they experience doesn't seem appropriate for the age it happens.  An example of this is when Joe's sister Ellie, accidentally stumbles upon him and his boyfriend during oral sex.  Whilst it's not explicit in the book, and the words aren't mentioned...she sees them when she's around 9 years old and knows it for what it is.  Either I'm getting very old, or my 8.5yr old knows far more than I believe he does.  Either way, her reaction wasn't to talk about it (at this point he's around 15)...but if it was my child who'd witnessed anything like this (gay or not), then knowing my children, I have no doubt they would talk/discuss it with us....but her reaction is to keep it to herself and not discuss with anyone, which I find difficult to grasp when it comes to that age range.  Maybe this stems from another secret which her brother keeps for her, but I'm still not comfortable with it as a reader....I guess that's what makes the story what it is.  For me it just didn't sit well, hence my rating.

Secrets are a part of growing up, but some secrets need to be shared, and there's a huge secret that the siblings keep between themselves.  Just like in my last paragraph, I have to admit to not understanding why there is silence with this.  I'm not comfortable with the fact that such a big thing was not discussed with the parents by her brother, as he is older and by keeping it to himself keeps a huge burden also, however sweet.

As readers we are all individual, I was brought up in a family where were talked about Every. Single. Thing.  So for me this book was a little harder to digest because of my own experiences.  I did like the long lasting friendships, and the variety of people and experiences this book holds.  Home schooling (yeyyy) is also featured, which is always a bonus for me :)

Book synopsis:
1968. The year Paris takes to the streets. The year Martin Luther King loses his life for a dream. The year Eleanor Maud Portman is born.

Young Elly's world is shaped by those who inhabit it: her loving but maddeningly distractible parents; a best friend who smells of chips and knows exotic words like 'slag'; an ageing fop who tapdances his way into her home, a Shirley Bassey impersonator who trails close behind; lastly, of course, a rabbit called God. In a childhood peppered with moments both ordinary and extraordinary, Elly's one constant is her brother Joe.

Twenty years on, Elly and Joe are fully grown and as close as they ever were. Until, that is, one bright morning and a single, earth-shattering event that threatens to destroy their bond for ever.

Spanning four decades and moving between suburban Essex, the wild coast of Cornwall and the streets of New York, this is a story about childhood, eccentricity, the darker side of love and sex, the pull and power of family ties, loss and life. More than anything, it's a story about love in all its forms.

Source - library.

1 comment:

Lynn said...

I've had my eye on this book but not bought yet. Interesting to read your review - not totally sure I'd pick it up now - I only have luke warm feelings for it after reading your take.