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When God was a Rabbit (English Edition) Kindle Edition
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|Kindle Edition, 3. März 2011||
|Länge: 338 Seiten||Word Wise: Aktiviert||Verbesserter Schriftsatz: Aktiviert|
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From the publisher Bloomsbury:
"This is a book about a brother and a sister. It's a book about secrets and starting over, friendship and family, triumph and tragedy, and everything in between. More than anything, it's a book about love in all its forms."
Elly is the sister and Joe the brother. And in between are their parents, Elly's friend Jenny Penny, assorted lodgers and god the rabbit.
Young Elly's early loss of innocence in the first few chapters and her brother's promise to protect her always sets the tone for the sibling's relationship. We follow the siblings from 1968 England through to New York 9/11 in the second half of the book. Winman has crafted a novel that kept me off kilter but quickly turning pages from start to finish. The characters are off beat, but the bonds to those they love are undeniably strong. Every character seems to be a step out of time with the rest of the world.
"'That's a good thing, isn't it? To stand apart and be different?' he said. 'I'm not sure' I said, quite aware of my own muted need to fit in to somehow simply hide. 'I don't want people to know I'm different'. And I looked up and and saw my brother standing in the doorway."
And they are different - but in a good way. I found the story of young Elly and Joe to be especially poignant. However, they didn't evoke the same reaction in me when they were older in the second half. That's not to say that the story unfolded in the latter part of the book is no less emotional. It is, but I think it was the loss of innocence on so many levels by the younger characters that was the most heartbreaking. There are many sad moments in this story, but there are just as many funny ones. The secondary cast, particularly the parents and lodgers were favourites of mine. Their acceptance of any and all and their inclusion of those on the periphery into their family endeared them to me. I found the use of god the rabbit throughout Elly's life to be an unique allegorical device.
Winman explores relationships of all sorts with a deft and original hand. But her description of the love between a brother and sister is especially well drawn. An unusual and totally original debut. It will be interesting to see where Winman goes next with her writing.
When I read this book, the line about happy families being all the same popped into my head. Happy families are rare in literature, so when you encounter one like Elly`s in "When god Was a Rabbit", it's a pleasant surprise; however, they don't generate much drama. The conflict then has to come from outside the protagonist, in the forms of her peers, colleagues, etc. Either way, the reader expects the protagonist to struggle with some kind of conflict before coming to terms with it and being transformed as a result.
However, that's not exactly what happens here. All the truly memorable stuff - a kidnapping, many deaths, a murder, etc. - happen to characters other than the protagonist. A childhood trauma occurs early on, but is dropped without examining in depth how that one incident affects how she relates to people outside her supportive family, which is something that should be addressed. There are a few references to how she and her brother are "loners," but that's it. Instead we get her quirky childhood and friendship with another eccentric child - then boom, we're fifteen years later, and even though she's an adult, her past schooling, career and relationships with other people besides the family/a few close friends are never described in any detail. Nor, except for a one night stand, do we see firsthand how Elly's early trauma affects her relationships with adult men - there simply aren't any except the same people who provided support when she was a child. It's true that she's independently wealthy so there no need for her to deal with less than pleasant people unless she chooses to, but this seems a cop out.
Also, several characters are gay, but we never see any discrimination or prejudice from the outer world, which, since the book takes place from the seventies to Y2K, might be expected to appear now and then. We don't even get a reference to AIDS, which certainly affected the gay community in the eighties. It's not that I wanted the characters to suffer - they all seemed like a likeable crew, but it made for a tedious read - and the times drama was dropped in, it came off as sensationalistic.
Imagine my enthusiasm, then, when our next book club book was announced as being When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman, which turned out to have any number of those trite kind of descriptions in its back cover blurb. I began reading the book accompanied by much mental eye rolling and thoughts of "I'll just quickly skim read through to get it over and done with". Having finished the book, I thought I'd review it for you. Believe it or not, it was much better than I feared - clearly shows how much I know! Here are my thoughts.
First off, some advice: do not, for the love of God, read this book on public transport. I made the mistake of starting to read the book while I was on the tram. This proved unfortunate, as I got to the nativity scene and immediately started laughing hysterically. And I mean in a BAHAH HA HA HA-loud-laughing-with-tears-pouring-down-face kind of way. In fact, I laughed so hard that I choked on my saliva (what can I say, I'm all class). People on the tram were not impressed and started to give me sideways glances and edge surreptitiously away.
The first half of the book is set in the late 60's and the 70's, where the narrator, Elly, and her brother, Joe, are kids growing up in England. Although some of the themes in the first half are dark, it is actually much lighter and funnier than the second half of the book, which takes place when Elly and Joe have grown up. Some of the second half is set in and around the events of 9/11, and it is hard not to feel emotional when the book revisits the pain and suffering of so many people and their families at this time. That's not to say that the second half of the book does not have its funny moments - it's just that there are less of them and they are less carefree. One could draw parallels between the innocence and optimism of childhood giving way to the more jaded cynicism of being an adult. But since I am not a literary tosser, I will restrain myself...
When God was a Rabbit is populated by a cast of eccentric and, for the most part, very likeable characters. There is Elly, the precocious narrator, who gives this novel its charmingly matter-of-fact voice. There is also Elly's older brother, Joe, who gives Elly a rabbit called God and the book its title. Not to mention Elly's rather strange best friend Jenny Penny with unmanageable hair, a lesbian actress aunt, and Joe and Elly's loving-but-eccentric parents who win money and open a B&B in Cornwall, paving the way for a raft of equally eccentric and likeable characters to appear.
Most of the reviews I found of When God was a Rabbit quoted the back cover of the book which says - rather cheesily -"This is a book about love in all its forms". I don't agree. This book is about family and the ties that bind (sorry, breaking all my own rules about trite descriptions now!!). And it is also about love. It is a darkly comedic novel that touches on some pretty serious topics along the way, but it's generally a light touch.
And speaking of topics, the book manages to cover a wide range including, among other things: incest, first gay love, suicide, religion, unplanned pregnancy (The Virgin Mary's included), terrorism, kidnapping and mentally disturbed neighbours - so you see, it has something for everyone. There are one or two reasonably graphically depicted sex scenes. If you are highly conservative and easily offended, stay away - this is probably not the book for you.
I found this book original, quirky, hilarious, sad and beautifully written, without being overly melodramatic or unduly self-indulgent. If you appreciate good writing, original characters and you are not a fundamentalist who's had a sense of humour-ectomy, then read this book and enjoy it for everything that it is - perfect and imperfect. And finally, some advice: if reading this book on public transport, beware of alarming fellow passengers with unseemly displays of laughter. That's all.
Elly and Joe are as close as a brother and sister can be. Despite what could be a relationship killing age gap, Joe and Elly has an amazing bond. A large part of that amazing bond is that Elly is an extraordinary child who is wise and mature beyond her years. Winman's crafting of her characters, particularly Elly, is quite spectacular. While some characters leap from the page and suck you in from the word go, Winman uses her characters to draw you in slowly. I was lulled into my reader's relationship with the characters. It was truly like forging a friendship that progressed with each page.
The entire novel has a dream-like quality about it. This is due to Elly's narration of the book, which begins when she is child. Winman uses Elly to slowly draw you into her world and get you to emotionally invest in Elly and the other characters. Being that this is a character-driven novel, this tactic works perfectly.
The plot of the novel is the childhood and adulthood of Elly and Joe, which a nice dose of some very special secondary characters. The plot covers everything from Elly and Joe's childhood in the UK through the events of 9/11 and how adult Elly and Joe are effected. This may seem like quite a bit of time to cover, but again, the dream-like quality of the novel makes time slip by in an almost magical way.
Once I began reading this novel, I truly couldn't put it down but I also didn't want to rush it. Sarah Winman is a gift writer that I truly, truly enjoyed. I cannot wait to see what she writes next.
I would absolutely recommend this novel to everyone!
This novel really wasn't what I was expecting; it skirts issues of trauma and recovery but without being explicit; it is never over emotional or maudlin; and yet it manages to move the reader immeasurably. Frequently vignettes (for example, when the young protagonist surprises her older brother with his lover as a teenager) from the story stuck in my mind hours after I'd put the book down. The depiction of the characters is precise and loving without being sugary -- the author never asks you to love or dislike any of the characters, but in the end they are hugely memorable. This novel is a bit of a dark horse and in some ways more like an indie movie than a novel, but it's hugely convincing and something I'm definitely going to recommend to friends.
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