Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book review: When God was a Rabbit

It is the title of this book that grabs your attention, and conveys the quirky innocence and ethereal energy of this tale.

It is these qualities that are the best aspects of When God was a Rabbit. The writing is especially beautiful, unique and enjoyable within and of itself.

But here in lies the problem. It is almost as if Sarah Winman wrote this book so that she could write, not because she had a story to tell. The book is one long ‘series of unfortunate events’ that seem to be written into the narrative only so that the author could explore her writing talent. Events and characters are beautifully described, but they seem to pile up and multiply just so that there is some kind of vague narrative and shell in which to place Winman’s beautiful words.

Indeed, one of the crucial moments of the book is mentioned in a short sentence and is never fully explained, leaving me frustrated at why Winman chose that event on which to craft her story. Other moments and characters also appear out of nowhere, then suddenly become important, and are more ‘hooks’ to hang the story on.

But despite all this, the book is still an enjoyable read that I recommend. It is a winding tale of growing up, and certainly explores ‘love in all its forms.’ Its best aspect is the writing itself, as well as a wonderful exploration on the nature of childhood. Winman manages to convey the concoction of innocence, fear, confusion and joy of being a child, which provides a powerful perspective of the world.

The book tells the story of Elly as she grows up, and her relationships with family and friends. A theme of ‘lost and found’ prevails, as Elly experiences both love and loss in her life and relationships. Her brother Joe, her best friend Jenny Penny, and her rabbit, called ‘god’, are colourful characters that provide the most weight and importance to the story. The book is divided into two parts – childhood and adulthood, which also gives it a little more structure.

The humour, intelligence, pain and learning reflected in the childhood narrative makes it the better half. It conveys so much about the innocence and intelligence of children, which I feel is the most important aspect of the book. Once we understand our childhood selves, we can look towards the future. Only where we know where we have come from can we know where we are going.