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I’m of 2 of 3 minds about this one. The writing is really lovely, clear and vivid, with good pacing and a subtle mix of humor and tragedy that reminded me of John Irving. It’s a novel full of potential, but it’s also clearly a first novel, as in WRITE ABOUT ALL THE THINGS!

The book is divided into two parts: the first about Elly’s childhood in the 70s in London and Cornwall, where her growth is measured by world events and popular culture. A happy, magical time. The second part in set 20 years later, when the complexities of adulthood have washed away the “wimsiness” of her early years.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the book is about. It’s marketed as a coming of age tale, but half of it is about adult Elly. The blurb focuses on her relationship with her brother Joe, but this relationship is neglected in the first half of the book. It’s also about growing up gay, 9/11, sexual abuse, and other more philosophical topics like neglecting families, sense of belonging, expectations, forgiving and atonement, being yourself, friendship, etc, etc.

Expect coincidences and unlikely events. Actually, expect a LOT of stuff happening, at times in an overpowering way. For instance, Elly’s childhood is marked by sexual abuse, but then we realize so is her best friend’s and possibly her aunt’s as well (mind, there aren’t that many characters in this book).

The hints of magic realism also felt a bit dislocated, like the talking rabbit and the man who knows how he’s going to die.

(Talking about magic, question for those who’ve read the book – no spoilers:

Remember when, at the beginning of the book, still in the 70s, Elly’s friend takes a 1995 coin from underneath the flesh of her arm? Made me think this was a sci-fi novel: her friend could time-travel and the only way she could bring back objects from the future was inside her. This detail was never explained and I’m still wondering).

But despite all this, I enjoyed it, mostly for the writing and the memorable characters. I’m really convinced we’ll hear much more of Winman. A first novel with good writing and weaker plot is much better than the other way around, right?

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Other thoughts: Savidge Reads, Leeswamme’s Blog, Stuck in a Book, Book Monkey, largehearted boy, LucyBird’s Book Blog,  Fleur in the World, Farm Lane Books, Rundpinne, She Reads Novels, Take Me Away, Books Like Breathing, Dot Scribbles, Uniflame Creates, The Literary Kitty, Vulpes Libris, Tales from the Reading Room, Bookworm’s World, Follow the Thread, Reflections from the Hinterland, The Book and Biscuit, Lovely Treez Reads, Bookish, I Just Read, (yours?)

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