When God Was A Rabbit – Sarah Winman – 8/10

“His excitement was the taper that ignited our sluggish souls, and drew us all towards him that summer; that summer when the light went out.”

Elly lives with her parents and older brother Joe in north London in the 1970s, and life is good. She makes friends with a girl called Jenny Penny, whose mother is a bit scandalous. She gets a pet rabbit and decides that god is a good name for a bunny. She’s a little disconcerted when her parents decide up sticks and buy a B&B in Cornwall but proceeds to make friends with the various residents who seem to become permanent, including Arthur, an elderly professor type who claims to know when he’s going to die, and Ginger, a faded actress who is regularly stoned. Her brother emigrates to New York and his diary places him in the World Trade Center on that fateful morning…

(it’s been a few weeks since I read this one, bear with me if my review is a little scatty).

Ummm. This reminded me a lot of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Emotionally absent father? Check. Weird older brother? Check. Crush on older brother’s best friend? Check. Carefree childhood? Check. So I loved the London part. Winman makes it very clear that we’re in the 1970s, not today, but that’s fine.

Then we move to Cornwall and we’re angsty and teenagey and Jenny Penny disappears and Joe moves to New York and it’s all a bit… odd. I think other people would find this section charming but I did not.

Then 9/11 happens and Joe isn’t answering his phone and we know that according to his diary, he must be dead, and Elly flies over and there’s a lot of sibling soul-searching without being very soul-searching, mostly the preemptory grief of the families/friends as they desperately hoped that their loved one had been spared, had been late for work, had got out quickly. All very moving.

Anyway eventually there is a resolution to all the suspenseful family tragedy and we are back in Cornwall and life is downright weird, with lots of people not remembering things, or being stoned or just off their rockers. Plenty of mid-life crisis going around.

What I am trying to say is:

great writing? yes

good characters, variety, people we care about? yes

plot? not so much although a few bits

good book? yes

great book that everyone in the world has to read right now or else? no.

Additional info:
Won from Headline Publishing via Savidge Reads.
Publisher: Headline, hardcover, 324 pages.
Order this from Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards giveaways.
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9 thoughts on “When God Was A Rabbit – Sarah Winman – 8/10

  1. Leeswammes 14 September 2011 at 6:37 pm Reply

    I more or less agree with you and I’m glad that there are people like me, who didn’t like it 100%. Like you, I loved the beginning, I seriously enjoyed that very much. But sometime during the Devon time I suddenly realised I didn’t know what this was all about anymore and what was going on.

    Towards the end, it got better again, with 9/11 etc.

    The writing was definitely very good, but I couldn’t connect to the characters very well (except with Elly in London).

    My review isn’t up yet. Hopefully next week.

    • readingwithtea 15 September 2011 at 11:44 am Reply

      I’m so glad it wasn’t just me that loved the start and then thought it faded. I blamed myself for that – I was able to read the first 100 pages straight through but then I had to read in little chunks here and there and I thought that might have spoilt the flow.

      • Leeswammes 15 September 2011 at 12:01 pm

        Well, exactly the same thing happened to me, so we still don’t know. On the other hand, if it was really still such a good read at that point, wouldn’t we have tried a bit harder to continue reading?

  2. Verity 15 September 2011 at 11:33 am Reply

    I am quite keen to read this – the Cornwall setting is a big plus for me! It has yet to cross my path (was it a Richard and Judy choice? that may explain why it is always on loan from the library!)

    • readingwithtea 15 September 2011 at 11:39 am Reply

      It may will have been Richard & Judy – it has certainly received a lot of press. I put my copy up on Bookmooch and it went within hours.

  3. tortoisebook 20 September 2011 at 9:56 am Reply

    Hi, just come across your blog for the first time – we seem to read similar books. Anyway, I loved this one – I thought it was quirky and original. I’m currently reading Lemon Cake and can also see strong similarities but I don’t think it is nearly as good and I’m not at all drawn into it. For me, When God was a Rabbit is a better book.

    • readingwithtea 20 September 2011 at 10:19 am Reply

      Interesting – I was captivated by Lemon Cake and not really by WGWAR. Each to their own, I guess. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. […] One time on holiday: When God Was A Rabbit […]

  5. […] is very much a type book; if you liked Sense of an Ending, or When God Was A Rabbit, or maybe The Spare Room (Spare Room is the best of these), you will enjoy this. If you’re […]

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