October Books 2) The Lovely Bones

2) The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

I started off not really liking this book, and understanding why so many others haven’t read it. Some reviewers somewhere commented that its saccharine concept – the narrator is a girl who is the victim of a horrible murder in the first chapter, and hangs around in spirit to see her family cope, or not cope – is just too gooey, and, frankly, it is. I guess that a book which carried the assuring message that people who die horribly, pointlessly violent deaths stay around in a happy afterlife and watch over us was bound to sell well in America just after 2001.

However, I actually came close to liking it, once the murder victim began to recede and the ordinary dramas of her family and schoolmates came to the fore. I was on the verge of concluding that despite an unpromising start it was a rather good book, when my confidence was destroyed by the ending.

At the end of the book, Susie, our narrator, is granted (quite outside the bounds between living and dead which the book seemed to have established) a few hours in the body of one of her classmates so that she can make passionate love to the boy she kissed shortly before she was raped and murdered by one of their neighbours; and then she moves on to the next stage of the afterlife.

The message seemed to be that the only remedy for bad sex is good sex, and it made me feel very uneasy. I have to admit that Alice Sebold knows a lot more about what it is like to experience being raped than I do, and she has every right to tell it like it is for her, or for the characters she invents. But I didn’t like it at all.

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