Thursday, 16 June 2011

All good things...

When God was a Rabbit by Susan Winman

I picked this book off the shelf simply because the title appealed to me. I read the blurb on the cover and thought 'why not?' I wasn't disappointed. I suppose if one has to categorise this novel then it has to be regarded as a comedy with moments of black humour but it could never be called a 'dark' book.

The book's narrator “Elly” was born in 1968, the same year as me. In part one, as she charts her childhood against the backdrop of events of the seventies I found memories stirring within myself. The book charts Elly's childhood, particularly focusing on her relationships with her older brother Joe and her best friend Jenny Penny. We also get to know her parents, wider family and neighbours in what is an authentic portrayal of how it was to grow up in that period. Elly's Childhood is described beautifully. The highs and lows; triumphs, dramas and disasters that seem huge from a child's viewpoint are put into perfect perspective. Winman's ability to write 'through the eyes of a child' reminded me of Maya Angelou, one of my favourite authors.

Part two takes up the story with the main characters in adulthood. All are scarred to some extent by events that occurred during their childhood. Much of part two deals with how Elly, Joe and others deal with their past. Just when you are wondering where the author is taking us the protagonists are ripped into the present by earth shattering events. Where will the characters end up? Will we have a happy ending?

'When God was a rabbit' is thought provoking, irreverent, heartbreaking and at times shocking. Most of all the book is beautifully written and very funny.

Big thumbs up!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Two weeks without dipping into the world of Witches, Wizards, Hogwarts, Death eaters and Horcruxes. I was getting withdrawal symptoms, I couldn't resist any longer, I had to have another fix.

The final instalment of the Harry Potter saga leaves no stone unturned and ticks all the boxes. The Deathly Hallows begins exactly where the last book had left off and charts the trials of Harry and friends as they strive to fulfil the expectations of the late Professor Dumbledore. The grim task of these three seventeen year old apprentice sorcerers is to defeat Voldemort and win the war but all seems hopeless.

Like all of the Potter books it begins slowly then builds and builds until the reader is totally paralysed and unable to put the bloody book down. The success of the Potter series means Rowling really did have a mammoth task tying up the loose ends and ending the story in a way that will satisfy the reader. She seems to have achieved this effortlessly. The Deathly Hallows is brilliant, it does everything the reader would ask of it and still has room for shocks and surprises along the way.

To begin with Harry and friends are in hiding, looking for clues that will help them complete the mountainous task that faces them. The tension builds to take its toll on both the characters and the reader. Eventually the heroes are forced into the open and the second half of the book is all action open warfare.

All the adult themes that emerged in the later books continue in this one; racism, political spin, young love, friendship and loyalty. Anyone who cares to read between the lines a little can allow themselves to be educated along the way. There are surprises too with muddled allegiances and secret heroism. Now I have a touch of sadness as I've finished the series I have nothing more to look forward to. I'm going to miss Hogwarts. However there's always the option of re-reading, which I know I will do someday.

I can't praise this book highly enough, brilliant!

So what of the 'Harry Potter' series as a whole? Well I grew up with Tolkein, I've read 'Lord of the Rings' more times than I can honestly remember and I love it. Rowling has obviously borrowed from Tolkein's work right down to the use of initials but who cares? I've also read Phillip Pullman's “His Dark Materials” which I also enjoyed immensely and intend to re-read some day. The Harry Potter books stand comfortably alongside Tolkein and Pullman, fantasy fiction at it's very best. For anyone who has not read J.K. Rowling, don't be put off by the hype, go out & buy 'The Philosophers Stone' tomorrow. These books deserve all the acclaim that has been heaped upon them and then some.

Get to a book shop tomorrow.

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