Firstly I have to confess that this is not one of Mum’s books – instead, it is one that my sister Debi mentioned she was reading recently on the Mums Books Facebook page, and that I coincidentally saw a copy of in a charity shop later that same day. Simply had to buy and read it! And very glad I did. Mum would certainly have read and enjoyed this as much as Debi and I did.
This is Sarah Winman’s first published work, and it is excellent. Perhaps even more resonant for those of us who grew up in the Sixties and Seventies in the UK, painting as it does an exquisite portrait of the way we lived. The narrator is Elly, the rabbit is a Belgian hare given to her by her brother Joe that sometimes talks to her. Elly and Joe’s parents are decidedly off beat, becoming even more so when they win the football pools and move from Essex to Cornwall, which separates Elly from her first real friend, the equally strange Jenny Penny.
As the story unfolds we meet more oddities, and what wonderful characterisation from Ms. Winman – these people feel real! It is a darkly comical read from start to finish, and no end of awful things happen to the characters. The rabbit is Joe’s gift to Elly after she reveals to him that she has been sexually abused by their elderly Jewish neighbour, who claims to have been a concentration camp survivor but in fact draws numbers on his arm with a felt tip – and eventually commits suicide. Jenny Penny ends up in prison after killing her abusive husband. Joe’s first love is kidnapped and has an ear cut off in Beirut.
And yet, it is above all else a story about love, relationships, and trust. From her childhood and into her adult life, the book looks at Elly’s relationships with those around her with a wry and whimsical eye. Catastrophes unfold, new characters appear, and even the ‘bit players’, such as some of the bed and breakfast guests, are beautifully drawn.
I found this hard to put down! But, all good things must come to an end…and now as usual, I’m ready to gift this forward! So, if you would like ‘When God was a Rabbit’, please get in touch either here or through the Facebook page …
and I shall be delighted to send it to you! If it has already been claimed, here’s an Amazon link to purchase a copy….