Sometimes all we need for a bit of escapism is a good book. I aim to make book reviews (fiction and non-fiction) a regular feature on this blog. This is my first ever book review… here goes!
When I asked my sister to buy me some books for Christmas, I knew she would do a good job with her keen eye for a good story… and she chose the beautiful, rich, imaginative tale When God Was a Rabbit. Here’s my review… and I’ll try to do so without spoilers for those that might want to read it.
It’s been a long time since I read a book that I was so taken away by. When God Was a Rabbit made me laugh, cringe, cry, hate and love. It kept me entertained right through to the end, which is no mean feat (I’ve come to realise that I am very hard to impress when it comes to reading fiction, but this book managed it!) I decided to take it on a flight from Spain back to England, and had already read 100 pages by the time the plane landed… that was it, I was hooked.
Perhaps one of the greatest things about this story was the depth of the characters – some of them may have been eccentric, but each one of them was believable and created a real sense of family, friendship and love between them. The story focuses on Elly, spanning around thirty years of her life, from her birth until her adulthood, and the twists and turns of her experiences and those of her close family and friends. Characters that really stood out for me were her best friend (with the unlikely name Jenny Penny), brother Joe, aunt Nancy (the lesbian film star), her parents, and her old friend Arthur (who claims to know exactly when and how he is going to die).
Punctuated by historical events, such as John Lennon’s and Princess Diana’s deaths, the eclipse of the sun, and, most significantly, 9/11, this book is both rooted in the real world and fabulously imaginative, featuring a talking rabbit, unusual and unexplainable actions by Jenny Penny, and unlikely life events such as winning the lottery. Yet for me, it still remained truthful and was never so crazy that I couldn’t believe in it.
I don’t want to go on and on about this book because I don’t want to give away any more for those that haven’t read it yet, that would spoil the fun of reading this incredible story which has many laugh-out-loud moments and also some deeply emotional ones.
Although I evidently loved this book, I’m not sure that it would be for everyone just because it is slightly eccentric and does deal with some controversial issues, touching on child abuse, cancer, domestic abuse, and of course, the tragedy of 9/11… however I thought the author dealt with each of these topics sensitively and in a way that I didn’t find uncomfortable to read.
I’m going to leave you with one of my favourite extracts from the book, as Elly talks to her old friend Arthur about ‘God’ (which she named her pet rabbit, much to the disgust of her devoutly religious school teacher). I hope you enjoy it, and if you’ve read the book too, I’d love to know what you thought of it. And, if you haven’t read it, and think you might like it, give it a go, it was truly a magical read!
‘Do you believe in God, Arthur?’ I said, eating the last piece of sponge.
‘Do I believe in an old man in the clouds with a white beard judging us mortals with a moral code from one to ten? Good Lord no, my sweet Elly, I do not! I would have been cast out from this life years ago with my tatty history. Do I believe in a mystery; the unexplained phenomenon that is life itself? The greater something that illuminates inconsequence in our lives; that gives us something to strive for as well as the humility to brush ourselves down and start all over again? Then yes, I do. It is the source of art, of beauty, of love, and proffers the ultimate goodness to mankind. That to me is God. That to me is life. That is what I believe in.’
I listened to the bell again, whispering across the waves, calling, calling. I licked my fingers and scrunched the tin foil up into a ball.
‘Do you think a rabbit could be God?’ I asked casually.
‘There is absolutely no reason at all why a rabbit should not be God.’
Reference: Quotation taken from When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman, Headline Publishing Group, 2011, Part One, p.141-142. (university has made me terrified of plagiarising!)