When God Was A Rabbit
Sarah WinmanYoung Elly's world is shaped by those who inhabit it: her loving but maddeningly distractible parents; a best friend who smells of chips and knows exotic words like 'slag'; an ageing fop who tapdances his way into her home, a Shirley Bassey impersonator who trails close behind; lastly, of course, a rabbit called God. In a childhood peppered with moments both ordinary and extraordinary, Elly's one constant is her brother Joe.
Twenty years on, Elly and Joe are fully grown and as close as they ever were. Until, that is, one bright morning and a single, earth-shattering event that threatens to destroy their bond for ever.
Spanning four decades and moving between suburban Essex, the wild coast of Cornwall and the streets of New York, this is a story about childhood, eccentricity, the darker side of love and sex, the pull and power of family ties, loss and life. More than anything, it's a story about love in all its forms.
To download the podcast featuring Richard and Judy interviewing Sarah Winman head to http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/id436366121
I loved this book, an extraordinarily accomplished novel by a debut author. It’s the story of the deep and unbreakable bond between a brother and sister, and chronicles four decades of family life. And what a family. There is Kate, the mother, beautiful and effervescent. Alfie, the father, a solicitor and stern atheist, but with a heart of gold. Then there is Nancy, Alfie’s sister, a stunning actress (and later, film star) who also happens to be gay and has always been in love with her sister-in-law.
The children are Elly and Jo. The book is narrated by Elly and begins when she is a little girl of around four. Jo is a few years older and fiercely protective of his sister. As they grow up, they tell each other everything – from Elly’s unpleasant sexual experience at the hands of an elderly neighbour, to Jo’s realisation that he is gay, and in love with his schoolmate, Charlie.
Elly’s best friend is Jenny Penny. A strange little girl with a man-eating single mother, she becomes so close to Elly’s family that she’s almost part of it. But then Elly’s parents move from London to Cornwall.
Here, other characters move into the story. There is Arthur, the dapper elderly lodger, and his great friend Ginger, an eccentric but charming singer.
This is a wonderful story about a family, but it is also about love in all its forms. It encompasses tragedy, but it’s also gloriously funny. The writing is full of warmth and affection. Read it, and it will warm you too.
I really enjoyed this book, which is, as Judy writes, beautifully written. I loved the family, with all their eccentricities and frequently hilarious conversations. When they move to Cornwall, as a result of winning the football pools, they live in a beautiful big house, and turn it into an upmarket B&B. Elly’s rabbit, which she calls ‘god’ has now started to talk to her, and the conversations between them are funny and surreal.
Elly’s family is a beacon of warmth. They attract eccentric characters like bees to pollen, and their lives become woven together.
But, funny and affectionate as this story is, it does not skirt around tragedy. On 9/11 Elly’s brother Jo is in New York, where he works at the twin towers. On that shocking day, Jo goes missing. Elly flies to New York and begins a grim search for her brother with his friend Charlie. They don’t find him. The family is devastated. The atmosphere in New York at that tragic time is vividly described. The anguish and fear of the friends and relatives as they search hospitals for their loved ones, the despair on their faces as they plaster photographs on the downtown walls, asking if anyone has seen their husband, daddy, sister, wife, son...
When God was a Rabbit is a novel about life, love, and family relationships. And of course, real life is by turns funny, mundane, joyful, sad, and sometimes tragic. So is this marvellous book.
To download the podcast featuring Richard and Judy interviewing Sarah Winman please click here.
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