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When God Was a Rabbit

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  37,367 ratings  ·  3,374 reviews
When God was a Rabbit is an incredibly exciting debut from an extraordinary new voice in fiction.

Spanning four decades, from 1968 onwards, this is the story of a fabulous but flawed family and the slew of ordinary and extraordinary incidents that shape their everyday lives. It is a story about childhood and growing up, loss of innocence, eccentricity, familial ties and fri
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published March 3rd 2011 by Headline Review
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Lindsey Davidson I totally agree. I couldn't put this book down. It made me laugh and cry throughout. …moreI totally agree. I couldn't put this book down. It made me laugh and cry throughout. (less)
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Jen No. Elly always said that Jenny would be the one to finish her own part of the series of articles on missing people reappearing.

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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  37,367 ratings  ·  3,374 reviews

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Kevin Ansbro
I found this book to be a delightful, sometimes compelling, read.

Sarah Winman writes lovingly and honestly about family dynamics and human relationships.
Told through the narrative voice of the main character, Elly (from infancy through to adulthood), Winman reminds us that life's journey isn't always as smooth as envisaged.
The author draws inspiration from her English childhood, which awakened my own fond memories of that particular era: fish finger suppers, '70s family game shows and a wonderf

I read these book descriptions. They sound on the far side of boring. They almost scream: "I am literature. LIT-er-a-ture. Pronounced the douchey way, dear. I only bore you because you are dumb. If you were actually an intellectual, you would bow before my literary prowess. Read the New Yorker more, darling."

Whyyyyyyy?!?!? Why do people publish these books? Why do critics RECOMMEND them?!? Why do I read them?!?!? I know the answer to the
Aug 23, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, 2016, uk
I hated this in 2013 and i hated it in 2016.
Thought re-reading might change my opinion on it but it didnt at all.
So boring. Had to really force myself. Hated everyone.
So glad when it was over.
Aug 10, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
I found this book when I was browsing in Kindle store. The title got me. It's a nice title. So I downloaded the sample and found it quite interesting but with a hint of "the style of writing I'm not sure I'd enjoy".
I do like the main story; it's about the love and bond between a brother and sister, a family, friendships and love in all forms. It's a beautiful concept, really. But I'm afraid I cannot say I enjoyed the book as much, let alone reread it.
To me it's like a big jigsaw puzzle and the a
Tea Jovanović
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Guilty again :) This book "bought" me with just few sentences and I had to buy the rights and be its editor... :) I had that "something special" feeling I had buying the rights for THE CURIOUS INCIDENT... Unfortunately due to Serbian publisher the book hasn't reached all the readers it should reach... But it's never late! MUST READ! MUST READ! Hurry up! Debut jewel of coming of age novel... :) I rarely come across novels that give me such "discovery of new voice" thrill :) ...more
After reading the terrific Tin Man I needed to read something else by Sarah Winman.

There's something etheral, inexplicable about Sarah Winman's writing. I can't quite put my finger on it. It's different, it's imperfect, but, it's so darn affecting. It's like loving someone deeply when you've passed the stage of blind love, the excitement of the newness. You get to know the quirks and the annoying bits, but you're still in love with that person. That's how I felt about this novel. It's the little
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have just started this book and am absolutely loving it. It is a hilarious book, with Ellie being just too sharp and dry with her little asides. I honestly love a book that sucks me in - especially after that nonsense Fifty shades of Grey rubbish. This is one that I will lend, but will always demand to be returned.

Just finished it today. I absolutely LOVED this book. There are some conversations in there that I have marked, as I think they speak such truth. One in particular about the last par
Sep 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub-reads
Sorry. This review contains a mini spoiler but I couldn't work out how to hide it so if you don't want any giveaway info you'd better ignore this one. However if you are continuing to read, thanks.

Having read this for my local bookclub meeting this evening I am not quite sure what I would want to say. It seems to me that Sarah Winman is not quite sure what she is writing. Is it the story of family relationship both 'nuclear ' and extended, is it a treatise on gay relationships, is it an account
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Not my usual type of book and had been very reluctant to read this one, several friends recommended it to me but I had put it off for a long time.
But I was presently surprised by this book and found it engaging ,funny and sad.

This Novel is in two parts and is about Elly who was born in 1968. The first part of the Novel deals with her relationships with her older brother, her family and her best friend Jenny Penny. I really loved this part of the book and the way it is written. I loved her pet ra
Jun 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: one-of-a-kind
Part One
the story of Elly as a little girl is magical, heart breaking, sweet, sad, funny, and in a few words: literary perfection

Part Two
I feel like, had this part of the novel been removed completely, this book would have been perfect. I think the most fascinating part about stories is not knowing the TRUE ending. About being left at one part of someone's life and imagining just what happened afterwards. By showing Elly as an adult, the mystery was lost and expectations were not met. The wonder
Sahil Javed
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When God Was a Rabbit is told in two parts and follows brother and sister, Elly and Joe, across four decades, from 1968 onwards. It is a ‘beautiful story about a fabulous but flawed family and the slew of ordinary and extraordinary incidents that shape their everyday lives. It is a story about childhood and growing up, loss of innocence, eccentricity, familial ties and friendships, love and life. Stripped down to its bare bones, it’s about the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.’
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing book - if it doesn't win a prize I'll be VERY surprised!
Even though Elly is older than me, much of her childhood resonates with familiarity - watching the Generation Game and shouting out the prizes in excitement, the magic of polaroid cameras, chocolate teacakes and doing the pools! Elly shares not just a deep and binding bond with her brother Joe, but also a sensitivity and awareness of the world that seems to separate them from the world of their peers. They are, in everything, a
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ben by: Anna Butler
Every once in a while you read a book that passes straight into your bloodstream, and you are hardly aware of how it happened.

When God was a Rabbit describes itself as the story of a brother and sister, "about childhood and growing up, friendships and families, triumph and tragedy and everything in between...about love in all its forms". That is a perfectly fair description as far as it goes. What it doesn't say is anything of the quiet and kindly magic with which Sarah Winman defines her charac
”I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all”

-- Both Sides Now, Songwriters: Joni Mitchell

4.5 Stars


“I decided to enter this world just as my mother got off the bus after an unproductive shopping trip to Ilford. She’d gone to change a pair of trousers and, distracted by my shifting position, found it impossible to choose between patched denims or velvet flares and, fearful that my place of birth wou
Jun 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
I can imagine that as a writer it is tempting to do too much in one's first novel and I think this is what's wrong with this particular debut. As many have commented, the first section is far better than the second. It is in the first section, however, that we get a taste for the unnecessary and somewhat sloppy storytelling that's to come. It annoys me greatly when an author glosses over the realities of life by making characters incredibly rich. I saw no need for the sudden, imprecise wealth th ...more
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Coming-of-age novels come with an absolution: They don’t actually have to be about-about anything. They can just be. A series of events, linked or otherwise, that start quirky and end artfully or in some combination of that.

Sarah Winman’s debut novel “When God was a Rabbit” takes advantage of this convention. Technically it’s about a brother and sister; that sister and her best friend; that brother and his best friend with benefits. It has no plot line that looms, waiting to be solved, fixed, r
Grace Harwood
Jan 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
F Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote "character is plot, plot is character". Sarah Winman in When God Was a Rabbit, however, has decided to forego both. The characters, who could have been so interesting if fully formed, are half-baked, badly drawn, sketch outlines of characters, insipid and vapid, nothing substantial in them at all. The plot just isn't there. Where, I asked myself after nearly 200 pages of reading, is this story going? The answer - I didn't know - and worse - I didn't care. It was ...more
Firstly, this is a fiction book of two halves. First half I was loving the book and would have given it five stars. Second half – I loved it less so three stars. Rather than go for the average I’ll keep the overall review at three stars. Good book, unusual but messy – I will explain further.
The fictional character of Elly is a real British girl. Born in 1968, she charts her life around popular culture and world events as she becomes self-aware and of what it means to be British, female and part
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
There’s only one word to describe Sarah Winman’s “When God Was A Rabbit” — disjointed.

If you read reviews on this and see critics describing it as having “an elegiac, simple beauty,” you can’t help but think that book reviewers like that serve only one purpose: to deter you from reading that book.

The story is supposed to be about a brother and sister named Joe and Elly — but mostly, it’s about Elly, who, as a child, is whimsically drawn and makes you excited to read the book.

As we hop, skip, jum
The first half was pretty good. I enjoyed the writing and the characters. I had to force myself to get through the second half. I still liked the characters, but something had changed and I found this half a real grind to get through, and I was so happy to finally close the book at the end. First half was 4 stars, the second half was 2 stars, for an overall 3 stars, asI felt cranky by the time I finished the book.
This is one of those ubiquitous books that I ended up reading mainly because I kept seeing it everywhere, and it turned out to be a lot better than I thought it might be, given its obvious popularity. The plot revolves around Elly, who narrates the story, her brother Joe, and their eccentric family and acquaintances - most notably Elly's best friend, the strange and striking Jenny Penny. The book is divided into two halves - Elly's childhood, beginning in 1968, and her adulthood, from 1995 onwar ...more
Emer (A Little Haze)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sam Woodfield
I have just finished reviewing this for a major UK retailer. What a fabulous book! I havent read anything in a long time which has made me smile as much as this book, and draw on every other emotion I possess to supplement this.

This story begins in the past, looking at the early lives of the main protagonists, and it is this section of the novel which sets the tone for the remainder of the story and lures you into the lives of the characters within. It is this section of the story which really r
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
2.75 stars rounded up to 3.0

This 2011 novel has been on my list for years and after finding it at a second hand bookstore, I was excited to finally have my chance to experience this intriguing title. Although I don't regret reading this in my free time, I am not exactly sure what the fuss was/is all about.

I tend to describe this book as a love story between a brother and a sister-a story of how secrets are forged in childhood and are carried through to adulthood.( Sarah Winman, Author's Not
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Elly and Joe are "two halves of a whole"; sister and brother. Their shared secrets and longing for acceptance & love binds them together tightly and inextricably. Both have friends that change their lives along the way; including both Jenny Penny, Elly’s childhood friend, and Charlie, Joe’s first love. Both must learn to overcome their losses as well, but Elly knows it’s their relationship and companionship that holds them steady.
When God Was a Rabbit is a story of childhood and growing up; fri
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dov Zeller
How do I review this book, which is so many things at once? Which is in some ways like a soap opera, perhaps just a touch in the tongue and cheek style of Jane the Virgin. And in some ways, the opposite of a soap opera. Drama is in here, but not exploited in a particularly soapy way. In fact, it is often more "background noise". Part of the fabric of life, but certainly not the whole tapestry. Here I am echoing a segment of Tzipora's Goodreads review in which she talks about the narrator's child ...more
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Oh wow, such a great story!
2.5 stars

Really liked the setting and the focus on childhood and family. Loved pretty much all the secondary characters, they were all quirky and unique, but not in an obnoxious way. Didn't like Elly so much, she was a weird, needy, pathetic main character who was obsessed with her older brother. Also, the second half threw in way too many issues, the whole amnesia, 9/11, cancer and prison thing, and most of it wasn't handled very well.
This is a beautiful book. I haven't laughed out loud so often, and with such genuine pleasure, since last year's Comedy Festival. And that's saying something, because this book isn't comedy at all; in fact, much of it is tragic and heartbreaking. But this is what makes 'When God was a Rabbit' unique; a book to treasure. It takes the most difficult situations (child neglect, abuse, first love, loneliness, anxiety, separation and loss) and without making light of any of them, deftly skews the pict ...more
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Sarah Winman (born 1964) is a British actress and author. In 2011 her debut novel When God Was a Rabbit became an international bestseller and won Winman several awards including New Writer of the Year in the Galaxy National Book Awards.

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