From The Glass Castle, a dysfunctional – real-life - American family I’ve moved straight on to a dysfunctional – fictional - British family in My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher.
If you’re a subscriber to newbooks then a copy of this Young Adult debut is about to land on your doormat – free gratis and for nothing. (See later for why.)
I can be a quick reader when I’m fully engaged with a book and boy, did this engage. In little over 24 hours I followed 10-year old Jamie’s story of living with a Dad who can’t let go of the memory of his older sister, Rose, who was blown up in a bomb attack. It is her remains - or rather some of them - that occupy pride of place on the mantelpiece.
Somewhere between Room by Emma Donoghue and Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - and holding its own against both - this is another story of life through the eyes of an innocent. Chris Cleave’s Incendiary and David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green also spring to mind, so pretty good company to be in.
Jasmine could have hogged the story, being Rose’s twin sister – and indeed, provides a touching epilogue – but Ms Pitcher gets inside Jamie’s mind and his gradual realisation of what being an adult is about. Although there’s a kind of closure to the story, it’s not the happiest of endings – for which the book is all the better, since real life happens rarely to work out as it was planned in our mind’s eye.
It’s especially nice to have two books on the trot to award Highly Recommended but even better to be recruiting newbooks readers to spread the word and see if we can turn this YA book into a genuine crossover. I promise you there are issues a-plenty to keep a reading group on their toes.
If you’re not yet a subscriber, come and join us and we’ll see if we can put a copy in your hands. After all, it’s what newbooks readers do best – get passionate about a book!
And if you are a subscriber, then do let me know what you thought of Mantelpiece - I've got a page to fill in the next issue and it would be far better to have a cross-section of views, for and against (although I suspect there will be few of the latter).