The Lovely Bones
I never expect too much when reading a best seller, especially one that sounds like it would be recommended in the Oprah Book Club (I checked and it wasn’t; in fact, the Oprah list contains some very surprising choices – and it’s not really like I thought 😀 ) but this one was pretty good. Not exceptional, but I’d recommend it to friends.
In fact, the first half is very very gripping. The 14 year old Susie Salmon is raped and murdered by a neighbourhood loner – a bleak and direct opening. What follows in the next 400 pages is the world Susie leaves behind and ever longingly watches from a personalized Heaven: parents and siblings dealing with disbelief and grief – letting it eat out at their lives and take charge, neighbours and friends shocked, a first boyfriend wrongly accused (even if only for a few hours) of having committed the crime, the fruitless search for the real culprit – and him getting away (like he had done before, like he would do again) and the destiny of Ruth, the last thing Susie’s spirit touched before leaving the Earth.
And I think I already gave away too much of the plot 😀 For the most part, the book is readable and pleasant (despite the subject); it doesn’t get too mushy, but it doesn’t feel too real either. After such a sharp and brutal beginning, we are surrounded by the fuzziness of Susie’s life, by the warmth of her family, by their… averageness (that’s not even a word! 😛 ) and their (rather studied, if you ask me) quirks. The Salmons are depicted as an ordinary family – and to some extent they really are. But there is something about them and their world – the way children laugh at a teachers jokes only because they feel sorry for his sick kid, the very “filmy” outsider, the neighbourhood’s friendliness towards the loner killer (ok, they don’t actually know he’s a killer), the eccentric granny – that feels fabricated and slightly preachy – and still doesn’t end up being too much.
What is too much is the last 50 pages – the poetic justice, the closure, the trip to twilight zone – I could very well have done without them. But that’s just me; I love a happy ending as much as the next person, but in my world, they have to make sense and come naturally. And this one didn’t do either.
Oh, and watch out for Peter Jackson’s movie next year – I expect it to be good, even with Mark Wahlberg as the father. (I’ve really nothing against him, but I’m not too confident in his acting either. I liked Jack Salmon’s character, I hope he won’t turn him into a distorted sobbing mess 😉 )