16 January 2012

Recent Reading

My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher
This teenage book is powerful and engaging. I found myself utterly absorbed. I meant to read part of it during advert breaks, but I stopped paying attention to the television and finished the book instead.
It's told from the viewpoint of Jamie, a 10 year old whose older sister was killed in a terrorist attack 5 years earlier. Jamie's family are still suffering from bereavement, and he has grown up in an unhealthy environment. Although he doesn't really remember Rose (he was only 5 when she died) his parents expect him to share the family's grief and feel as strongly about her as he does about his surviving sister, Jasmine. The children are moved out of London by their alcoholic father after their mother leaves. However the move doesn't bring on the fresh start they need.

Jamie's viewpoint is one of innocence and ignorance, emotionally engaging and powerful. He doesn't know much better than his upbringing, and it's heartbreaking to see his misplaced optimism crushed. Jamie is clearly a loner and a bit odd, but though the reader knows this we cannot help but see things his way. The issue of racism against Muslims is a major part of the story (Rose was killed in a terrorist attack) as Jamie befriends the only Muslim girl in his new school and is terrified of his father's reaction. I found myself tensing up as the inevitable confrontation loomed.

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