I loved these past holidays; I read a huge amount – so much so that my fifteen-year-old son started teasing me for not having a life. Now the problem is is that I tell people about my reading and they ask, ‘So what were the good books?’, and I instantly go blank and mutter something about not being good at remembering titles. Not much use for someone who tries to review books on a blog.
So, I can tell you that I enjoyed, really enjoyed, ‘When God was a Rabitt’ by Sarah Winsome. It has many aspects that I love in books – quirky characters, dark humour, intense relationships, questioning children and a huge rambling house. The narrator is Elly, who we meet as a young child in England, surrounded by her dysfunctional family (in fact, is any family not dysfunctional?). Well, dysfunctional except for her brother Jo, who is Elly’s guardian and protector throughout her life. She also has a best friend, Jenny Penny, who smells of chips and knows rude words.
Life is puzzling for Elly – her grandparents die in a car crash, sending her mother into a deep, deep depression. She finds out that she was the result of an unplanned pregnancy, and is sexually abused by her creepy neighbour, Mr Golan (creepy name even). Her friend Jenny Penny’s mother is a drunk who sleeps around. With all this going on, she starts to doubt God and thinks that she will need to find another one who loves and cares for her.
And so she does. After she tells Jo about being sexually abused, he comes home one day with a Belgian hare for her. She calls him God. I then feared that the whole book was going turn cute and be about Elly talking to her furry God, but Sarah Winsome deals with God in such a subtle, humorous way that he ties into the story perfectly.
The house bit comes in when her parents win the Lottery – boodles of money – and buy a huge house in Cornwall. Wonderful characters are introduced into the house, amongst whom is Elly’s aunt, Nancy, a lesbian film star, one of Elly’s allies in her confusing life.
The book shifts between Cornwall and New York, where Elly and Jo live once they are grown up. Life is wonderful there, their relationship is as close as ever, until the calamitous events of 9/11 wreak havoc in their lives.
To boil it down to its bare bones, this is a book about a brother and a sister, and the story of a family. Yet there is so much more to it than that, and I have read reviews that criticise it for being too full of characters, with a complicated story line. I don’t agree. I enjoyed every page of it, which was easy because I was reading it on holiday where the biggest decision I had to make was what to eat for my next meal.