‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Sebold

LovelyBones

Fiction – paperback; Picador; 328 pages; 2003.

In a nutshell, I liked Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones very much. I was convinced that I’d find it cloying and sentimental but I was surprised to find that it was far from this.

There’s no doubt that it was sad but, like William Trevor’s excellent The Story of Lucy Gault, this sadness wasn’t soppy but made more real because it was tinged with regret, unfulfilled promise and heartbreak regarding what might have been. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire reading experience and found myself getting lost in the story, particularly the first few chapters which gripped me to the point that I completely lost track of time.

In The Lovely Bones, Sebold has created a wonderful set of characters, especially the narrator, Susie Salmon, who tells the story of her family’s life from beyond the grave. Murdered when she was 14 by a neighbour, Susie watches as her parents and siblings try to cope with her terrible death, each one reacting and dealing with their loss in very different ways. From her vantage point in heaven Susie sees everything but this never lessens her love for her family or her strong desire to return to Earth.

It sounds completely airy, fairy but Sebold’s writing is so deft and confident it never resorts to cliché or fairytale extremes; it is totally believable from start to finish and you can’t help thinking that if there is life after death then this is exactly what it will be like.

In much the same way that Anne Tyler takes the ordinary and makes it into something extraordinary, The Lovely Bones is about normal people finding themselves in an abnormal situation and coping with it the best way that they can. This is a mesmerizing book that resonates long after you read the final page. Read it if you can.

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4 thoughts on “‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Sebold

  1. Just a quick note on this 6.5 yr old review…
    This has recently (late 2009, early 2010) been made into a major Hollywood movie, saw the trailer today, looked interesting.

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  2. A lot of my older reviews are pretty terrible, so I’m a bit embarrassed you’ve taken note of this one!
    I’ve been seeing lots of people read this book on the tube in recent weeks, purely on the basis that it has been made into a film — the director is Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings). I’m not sure I’d want to go see it though. It received some scathing criticism on the BBC Review Show a couple of weeks back…

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  3. I read this book a couple of years back and thought it was one of the most moving pieces of work I had read for a long time. Since then I have recommended it to several people on the Bookarmy and other forums, and even the most sceptical of them have shown a positive response in their ratings and reviews.
    By the way, I don’t think your review is terrible. I am just starting out with my blog, and I am no where up to the standard of your writing, so far.
    Great site, I will stop by often, to keep up to date.

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  4. Thanks for your comment, Yvonne. Many of my earlier reviews make me cringe because they (usually) fail to outline the plot. In many ways they simply tell you how I felt about reading the book. Which is okay, I guess. But looking back on them now, eight or nine years down the line, they feel rather amateurish to me. But then back then I was writing them for myself, not an audience. Indeed, traffic to my site was pretty much non-existant, and I didnt get any comments for at least four or five years! (Which is why I love it when new bloggers complain about only getting a handful of comments – they dont know how good theyve got it!!) Good luck with your blog, by the way.

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