Saturday, 10 November 2012
Review: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
Pages: 221 (Indigo, 2011)
Status: Borrowed from the library
Synopsis: Ten-year-old Jamie hasn't cried since his big sister, Rose, was killed five years earlier. His family has fallen apart as a result of her death: his mum left, his dad drinks, and Jasmine, Rose's twin, isn't eating. When his parents divorce, Jamie moves with his dad and Jasmine to the Lake District in an attempt to rebuild their lives.
First Line: "My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece."
Review: This review is tricky to write because I loved this book so much. I read it at the start of what was meant to be a Day of Reading and then found that I couldn't pick up another book afterwards, I was that caught up in My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and my reaction to it. I cried, I cringed, I laughed, and I was taken back to my own time as a ten-year-old. All in one slim volume of elegant prose and fully realised characters.
I'm tempted just to stop here and say: read it! Read it now!
But I won't, though I may just list reasons for reading it:
1) Jamie himself. He is a wonderful narrator, and it really feels like a ten-year-old view of the world. Not just in the language, which is beautiful yet still, somehow, childlike, but in how he treats the universe: if he wears a Spider-Man t-shirt then it will be ready for when his mum visits, and wearing it will make her visit. There are constant imaginings of how life should be and will be and I really wanted to be able to Thursday Next my way into the book and give him a hug.
2) Sunya, Jamie's friend at school. Sunya forever, she is badass and incredible and I kind of wish she'd been my friend when I was that age although I would have been terrified that one of her fantastic vengeance plots would get us in trouble. Not that it would have done, she is too badass for that.
3) Tough issues are dealt with in a fantastic way. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece deals with grief, intolerance, abandonment, alcoholism, anorexia, bullying and exclusion in a way that never feels heavy-handed or as if Annabel Pitcher is forcing a moral on the reader. Jamie puzzles things out for himself and has constant moments of trying to put together a right way to act from the hypocrisies of the adults around him.
4) It perfectly captured what being at primary school is like. The school in this book is a local village one, very heavily C of E and though this is clearly set in the 21st century, but it reminded me a lot of being at primary school in the late 80s/early 90s, although none of my teachers were as hideous as Mrs Farmer. The way in which teachers often make favourites of the most hideous children was very accurate though.
5) There is a total Britain's Got Talent parody/piss-take which I loved. I don't even watch the damn show and I appreciated it.
6) It made me cry.
Oh, just read it! I don't want to spoil anything - I haven't even said how Rose died, because I went in not knowing and I quite liked it having a bit of mystery as to what happened to her, although I know some book blurbs do include it - I just want to recommend it to people and buy a copy so I can lend it to my friends with instructions that they read it. And you should, too.
Forever Young Adult
Beth Fish Reads