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January 06, 2007

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

I know, I know. I promised a review of The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets but I find it so much easier to write about a book that I didn't enjoy so much. My thoughts on The Lost Art... are over at Bookcrossing. If anyone wants to join a bookring for the book, then let me know by email, in the comments to this post, or by the pm system over at Bookcrossing. Let me know where you live and if you are prepared to ship overseas.

Now, as for The Lovely Bones.....

I've been wanting to read this book for quite some time. I had heard only good reviews and was myself intrigued by the original and fresh idea of a teenage girl watching from heaven as her family struggle to come to terms with her murder.

I have to admit that when it came to reading the novel, I was mildly disappointed. It seems to me that here is an author who has little confidence in her work, as if she cannot quite work out what sort of book she is writing. Is it the unique kind of tale, as promised on the back of the book, or is it a ghost story? A Murder mystery? A love story?

Likewise Sebold starts to tackle many themes and then drops them as soon as she realises that they are larger than she imagines, fearing she cannot do them justice in the pages of a 300 page novel. I get the impression that she wants to take on racism by having Susie's boyfriend Ray as the first suspect in the investigation but then loses confidence a couple of pages later and kills that particular thread. Then there's the great questions of heaven and God. Heaven must be perfect, and so Susie is provided with a best friend in heaven but the friend's idea of perfection is different from Susie's so she has to disappear into her own version of heaven every now and then, leaving Susie alone. Susie misses her and so her Heaven becomes imperfect after all. Confused? Well that makes you me, along with every great philosopher's from the past several thousand years. Sebold deals with this, once more, by brushing it under the carpet in the hope that it will go away.

Without wanting to give back too much away. The scene where Susie takes on Ruth's body is hideous, trashy and unnecessary. I just can't work out what Sebold was trying to prove. Most of us already felt Susie's pain as she watched her friends grow into women, knowing that she would remain as she was, but was what so special about her that she was 'allowed' to come down and do something that apparently nobody else in heaven could do?

To be fair, I feel bad slating this book as I can't help but to feel that Sebold shows promise as a writer. Many of the scenes between Lindsey and her father are understated but tender, well drawn and poignant. In addition the hospital scene between the mother and father could be nauseatingly sentimental but is handled with great sensitivity.

It's not that I hated the book, it's just that it shows so much potential, builds our expectations and then lets us down. In a way it reminds me of a very first draft of a first novel of a promising writer who is temporarily struggling to find her feet.

If you are reading this and you loved the book, feel free to jump right in and tell me I'm wrong!

Posted by mandy at January 6, 2007 04:28 AM

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