Deborah Dicks's Reviews > My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
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's review
Mar 20, 2011

it was amazing
Read from March 20 to 21, 2011

Dealing as it does with some serious issues such as grief, terrorism and racism, this could easily turn into a pontificating and uncomfortable book, but the author instead manages to deal with these weighty issues with sensitivity and humour while not detracting from their significance.

Jamie's older sister, Rose, was killed in a terrorist attack. As a result, the family has somewhat fallen apart - Jamie's mother has left to be with another man, his father refuses to relinquish his sister's ashes and keeps them in an urn on the mantlepiece, and Jamie's family (sans mother) have relocated to the Lake Distract to start anew. But it is a sad fact of life that one cannot outrun one's problems and Jamie's family continues to disintegrate. His father turns to drink, his mother is emotionally and physically distant, his best friend brightens his life for a little but because she is a Muslim girl (and 'Muslims killed my daughter' according to Jamie's father) this friendship is at first full of guilt and later forbidden by his father.

Pitcher portrays the world through Jamie's eyes, in a manner redolent of 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' and this is what gives the story its candour. One clear example of this is through Jamie's relationship with Sunya - his father reacts badly to Jamie's association with Sunya because she is Muslim and Rose died in a Muslim attack, but Jamie cannot understand this as he sees quite clearly that it was not Sunya who detonated the bombs that killed Rose. His childish clarity often shows the flaw in adult logic in this way.

This is a beautifully written novel. I finished it in a day as I could not bear to put it down. I hope to see a lot more from this author.

(This review appears on Amazon as part of my Amazon Vine reviews)

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