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by Sarah Winman

Pub Date: May 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60819-534-3
Publisher: Bloomsbury

The offbeat coming-of-age story of Elly, an English girl with an overactive imagination, an intense bond with her older brother, a Belgian hare named god and multiple dates with destiny in post-9/11 New York.

British actress Winman's fiction debut, spanning the late 1960s and early 2000s, boasts one of the more endearingly unconventional families in a while. It's an open secret that Elly's father's lesbian sister has long been enamored of Elly's mother—whom her father married largely as a favor to his sibling. Elly's brother Joe, who is five years older, has known he was gay since he was little. The household is completed by a foppish, aging border and a female Shirley Bassey impersonator. And then there is Elly's mysterious friend Jenny Penny, whom she rescues from neglect at the hands of Jenny's loose-living single mother but can't rescue from a murder conviction later in life. As often as life affirms itself in the book, dark clouds hover: Elly's mother's parents were killed in a freak accident, Elly's father narrowly escapes a bomb blast on a tube train, there are sexual abuses and cancers from which to recover—and, in the second half, there is the horrific bombing of the twin towers. True to the title of a newspaper column Elly now writes about her personal history, Joe and the rediscovered love of his life Charlie both become lost and then found again following the blasts. Though the first half of the book is fresher and more striking then the vaguely familiar New York part (the scene in which Elly auditions for a school pageant in dark glasses, "a cross between Roy Orbison and the dwarf in the film Don't Look Now,” is priceless), Winman mostly lives up to the advance word on the novel. Her quirky voice maintains its energy; even at her most precocious, Elly never wears out her welcome.

A freshly rendered tale of growing up and living in the world by a late-starting author with a bright future.