Monday, June 27, 2011

When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman

When God Was A Rabbit the debut novel by Sarah Winman, a coming-of-age story divided into two parts, set on two continents and focusing on two different relationships in the life of Elly. The book begins in 1968, in England, where Elly grows up with her older brother Joe and best friend Jenny Penny. When their family moves away, Joe leaves behind his first love, while Elly leaves behind her only true friend. The second half of the novel is set three decades later in New York City following the attacks of 9/11 during which Joe goes missing. What ties these two parts together is their perceptive examination of love and the quirky yet moving narration from Elly.

The best way for me to describe When God Was A Rabbit is unexpected. Winman's style of storytelling is unconventional but her writing is lyrical and beautiful. In many ways I was reminded of another recent debut, The Adults by Alison Espach, because of the way they both have a wry female narrator with a dark sense of humour, both jump forward in time and to a different country for the second half the book, and they both take on growing up in a unique and insightful way. To be honest, there was also one more connection- although I loved the beginnings of both, I felt disappointed by the second halves of the books. In the case of When God Was A Rabbit, the second half just didn't have the power of the first and I found the details of friendship and young love much more intriguing than the trials experienced by Elly with regards to her brother in part two of the novel. The plot of the second half felt a bit contrived, and I didn't find myself as attached to the characters as I had when they were children and at times they even bored me.

I was so sorry to be let down by the ending of When God Was A Rabbit because I fell in love with Winman's writing in the first half. It is rarely that a book can be both emotionally moving and darkly comic, but Winman manages that. She creates a dimensional cast of secondary characters with their own quirks which add a richness to the story. The book itself deals with universal struggles- getting your heart broken, moving away from friends- but takes them on in a perceptive and unique way. Winman lets the reader not only into Elly's mind, but into her heart. Ultimately, I fell in love with When God Was A Rabbit, but unfortunately by the second half of Winman's novel I had fallen out of it.

Release Date: March 3rd, 2011
Pages: 304
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This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

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