Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Lovely Bones

I bought a copy of this book some time ago in, I think, a charity shop in the UK.  I kept meaning to read it.  It disappeared. I was standing in a bookshop in Napier just after Christmas contemplating the purchase of another copy when a young lady (customer) started explaining very enthusiastically why I should read it.  She had just finished it and was consuming The Time Travellers Wife.  I recalled that my Brother was very enthusiastic about that book so decided that her taste must be good.  So I bought the book.  I'm so glad that I did.

A fourteen year old girl (Susie) is murdered.  From heaven she gives a commentary on how her family, the murderer and those affected by the murder cope or, more to the point, don't always cope.  

So you now have a synopsis of the story;  a synopsis that tells you nothing. 

The book explores relationships and feelings (particularly grief) which are compelling aspects of life when dealt with this sympathetically and perceptively.  It mixes the subjective emotions with very day to day aspects of life and how people might react and interreact in both areas.  One very mundane and practical moment which I found particularly moving was when Lindsay (Suzie's sister) first shaved her legs.  Her Dad was the one who, despite his misgivings that she was too young, guided her through the process and showed her how to change the razor blade.

The book appears to portray Lindsay, who is one year younger, as the person who suffers the most from the tragedy because she is "the victim's sister" and loses her own identity as a result.  No one can look at her without thinking of Susie.  I think, however, that she deals with the situation better than her parents and brother. 

Suzie's portrayal of a heaven is non-religious.  Whether Alice Sebold is religious I neither know nor wish to know but she gives an account of heaven which, in my view, equates to it being a state of mind portrayed in physical terms rather than a physical heaven.

The description of a novel as 'Number one best seller' is one of my dislikes and tends to put me off books.  This is, however, a compelling read.  Would I recommend it?  Without hesitation.

Inside the snow globe on my father's desk there was a penguin wearing a red-and-white striped scarf.  When I was little my father would pull me onto his lap and reach for the snow globe.  He would turn it over letting all the snow collect at the top, then quickly invert it.  The two of us watched the snow fall gently around the penguin.  The penguin was alone in there, I thought, and I worried for him.  When I told my father this, he said, "Don't worry, Susie; he has a nice life. He's trapped in a perfect world."

"When the dead are done with the living, " Franny said to me [Susie], "the living can go on and do other things."

With the camera my parents gave me, I took dozens of candids of my family.    ..    ..    ..  I had rescued the moment by using my camera and in that way found a way to stop time and hold it.  No one could take that image away from me because I owned it.

These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections — sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent — that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events my death brought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous lifeless body had been my life. 
Life is full of coincidences.  Production of the film of The Lovely Bones (which is, I understand, being filmed at the moment) has moved from Pennsylvania to New Zealand.  


  1. Read this when it was published in 2002 or thereabouts and thoroughly enjoyed it but was disappointed that she didn't seem to have published anything else. I see now that she brought out another novel in 2007 - The Almost Moon. Worth looking out for, I should think.

  2. i really enjoyed this book though time travellers wife is one of my fav books of all time

  3. oooh loved this book AND the time travellers wife...will have to look our for the Almost Moon, too, SS. No such thing as coincidences, ever!

  4. Always looking for a good book! Will definitely try this one ---- what an interesting perspective to write from!
    Thank you!