When God was a Rabbit: Sarah Winman

Book Review ; When God was a Rabbit

It’s 1968. “The year Paris took to the streets… The year Martin Luther King lost his life for a dream.” The year Eleanor Maud Portman is born.

This is a truly heart warming  read that would tug on the heartstrings of even the most callous of readers. This earnest book has a vintage style that tells of the struggles and pains of a family as close knit as your favorite Christmas jumper. This book is full of family and personal calamity- amnesia, murder, cancer and sexual abuse, but also an accident to a rabbit named God.

This book is divided into two halves representing the childhood and adult life of the narrator Elly. The first half is a delightfully childlike and naive representation of family life including the introduction of her pet rabbit God. However the second marks the weakening of this strong family bond. The nimble and lively Elly morphs into a morose adult who is haunted by a childhood secret whilst her brother Joe becomes ever more detached. However the bond that we feel between this brother and sister is made real and alive and we see the inability they have to be apart.

All the characters that we meet along the way are vibrant and full bodied and create a patchwork of family life, for example Jenny, Elly’s best friend, a waif like neglected character who smells of chips- and an aunt  a Shirley Bassey impersonator that brings glamour and pizzazz to this vintage story.

The author also introduces cultural and historical events due to its long unwinding narrative that recites decades of time- including the deaths of John Lennon, Princess Diana and a street party during the Jubilee. These events create a backdrop that breaks the heart of the reader showing the terrible effects that these have on the picturesque family.
I found this book cosy and a real picture into family life- this beautiful book has an interesting narrative style that hooks the reader and pulls them along until it reaches its ultimate event in which we see whether this dysfunctional and patchwork family can really hold together.

‘Twenty years on Elly and Joe are fully-grown and as close as ever were. Until that is one bright morning and a single, earth-shattering event threatens to destroy their bond forever.’

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