Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

I began this book having only seen the film trailer, and I remember thinking, ‘What’s the point of a murder mystery where you already know who did it?’

Despite featuring a serial killer and beginning with a murder, I discovered this novel is not a murder mystery, but rather a story about healing – the victim’s family coming to terms with what happened to their daughter. Unusually, the narrative is written from the point of view of the dead girl, Susie Salmon, watching her friends and relatives try to rebuild their lives.

The prose has some beautiful turns of phrase, and is, in places, shockingly brutal – the fact that the author suffered rape as a girl makes the whole thing much more poignant, and you have to admire Sebold’s courage in publishing something dealing with issues so personal to herself. The narrator’s presence in heaven justifies the omniscient narrative which allows the reader insight into the minds of all the characters, even the murderer himself.

With the subject matter what it is, The Lovely Bones should not be an easy book to read, and in a way, it isn’t – tear-jerking moments just keep coming. However, a wonderful sense of optimism pervades the novel, and the reader joins the narrator in hoping and willing the surviving group of family and friends to recover from their loss and continue with their lives.

The Lovely Bones is a sensitive and original insight into a taboo subject, and I can honestly say I’ve never read a book like it. (And I’ve read a lot of books!) I’m curious about the film adaptation – I’m having trouble imagining how the narrator’s ghostly omniscience would translate onto the screen without either becoming clichéd and tacky or disappearing altogether.

Next up: The Iron Horse, by Edward Marston

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