I received this book from Tesco Books blog – they have recruited a whole bunch of bloggers to review books, but with a little twist. So books are listed in a category – and When God Was a Rabbit is one of a list of “Books to Turn Your Heart in Somersaults”.
Generally, I try to find something positive to say in book reviews. And if I was feeling generous I could point out that the language in this book is excellent. There are no clunky artificial grammatical problems or anything of that sort, it doesn’t plod or suffer from excessive adjectives for example.
But. Big but. I really just can’t see what everyone is raving about. I felt constantly disoriented and confused by the way the story leapt about in location and to some extent in time. (What is wrong with a story that starts at the beginning and progresses along until it reaches the end? Why is there this vogue to leap about in time and place at the moment? It’s obviously beyond my brainpower while pregnant and chasing a toddler. (And yes, that’s an excuse. It’s not beyond my brainpower at all, whatever state I’m in. It’s just an overdone plot point.)) And I don’t expect a book described as turning my heart in somersaults to contain nearly as many graphically unpleasant and traumatic events. If you don’t want any plot spoilers, you should probably stop reading now.
Still here? OK, you asked for it. This is a book that covers child abuse, domestic abuse, kidnapping, gay teenagers, possibly children committing murder (far too many hints as well, I prefer my stories to be reasonably clear, instead of alluding to happenings in passing), families suddenly becoming rich, lesbian aunties, fathers traumatised by long ago suicides and so on and so forth. It even works in the whole September 11th tragedy as a plot device that just made me cross – so contrived, and perhaps it was reading it so close to the tenth anniversary, but it felt disrespectful to be honest, using the event to carry a story along. If you really feel the need for a character to get amnesia and disappear, then have them mugged or hit by a car. But that wouldn’t have been dramatic enough for a story that has as many incredible events and stretched coincidences as this one.
Perhaps I’m being harsh. Maybe it’s not the plot that is supposed to draw you in, perhaps it’s the characterisation. In which case I’m still struggling – the only character I found at all appealing is the ancient and completely barking lodger – the main character I wanted to reach into the pages and shake. And if I hadn’t been reading it for a review, I’d have given up at the end of part 1 and walked away.
So all in all, did this book make my heart turn in somersaults? No, but it certainly turned my stomach a few times. Would I recommend you read it? No.