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When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
4:20pm Thursday 15th September 2011 in Book Group
IF it’s true that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, it’s equally true that judging a book by its title is a mistake, and When God Was a Rabbit provides convincing evidence to support the theory.
It’s a title that says little about what’s between the covers and suggests that readers might be in for a novel with some degree of tweeness or magic realism.
In fact, there’s nothing in the least twee about this novel, the first from former actor Sarah Winman, and it’s a compellingly real story – Elly, her brother Joe and their idiosnycratic extended family – which will draw you in from the first page and keep you reading to discover their fates.
Family, friendship and, above all, love are at the heart of a novel that starts when Elly is just six and first meets Jenny Penny. Jenny is the start and the end of Elly’s story, dividing her life into two parts “as if they are bookends”.
But Jenny Penny vanishes on Christmas Day when they’re both 12, only reappearing 21 years later in a phone call that mirrors the one she made before her disappearance. “Elly, I can’t talk for long,” she whispers before reassuring Elly that there will be a happy ending to the tragedy threatening to overwhelm her.
Elly’s is a unique voice and the first half is a brilliant evocation of a slightly offbeat childhood, where her relationship with Joe, her brother, exactly catches the near-indifference underpinned by fierce love and loyalty that characterises the lives of siblings.
No synopsis of the plot could convey just how effectively Winman picks up her reader and carries them with her to a satisfying ending.
And if that ending could be accused of being implausible, it is nonetheless the ending every reader will want. The author herself says in her notes: “In some ways it is supposed to be implausible ... I wanted to stop the film. I wanted to give people a second chance.”
About the author
Sarah Winman was born in Essex and attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art before going on to act in theatre, film and television.
When God Was a Rabbit is her debut novel, published by Headline in March. It reached number five in the Sunday Times bestseller list and is one of the titles in the Waterstone’s 11 list, the pick of debut novels in 2011.
It was also selected for Richard and Judy’s summer Book Club. When God Was a Rabbit has currently been sold in 16 European territories as well as the US, China, Indonesia, Brazil, Korea and Israel.
How to order
When God Was a Rabbit, offer price £7.59, post and packing free.
To order, call 08430 6000399 or send your cheque or postal order made payable to Hereford Times Bookshop to: Hereford Times Bookshop, PO Box 60, Helston TR13 0TP.
Allow seven to 10 working days for delivery. Titles supplied subject to availability. Order online at sparkledirect.com.