|My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece|
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece. The title of this novel intrigued me when I first heard about it but the subject matter made me wonder if it was a bit too old for some middle grade readers – a family coping with having a dead sister blown up by a bomb! A bit macabre. But then I read the first page and it was light-hearted and sweetly comical. I had high hopes for Annabel Pitcher's novel.
The story is told from 10 year old Jamie’s perspective. Struggling to cope with the death of Rose a few years back, his parents have split up and he has moved with his dad and elder sister Jasmine to the Lake District. Their mother has left them. The novel tells the story of them coping in a new place and a new school without their mother and with the persistent presence of Rose. For someone who’s dead you’ll be amazed at how much she really does live on their mantelpiece!
For those who love a good story, this definitely has it. It is a lovely story about misunderstandings, the different way people grieve, bullying, belief, racism, friendship, belonging and love. And secrets....ssshhh... It includes a whole bunch of laughs, the odd tear, and quite a bit of action. And some football. It is not macabre at all.
Pitcher’s characterisation is wonderful. I liked Jamie from page one but the secondary characters – Jas, Rose, Sunya, dad, Mrs Farmer, Roger – they come alive in the book too. I kept thinking I was there in the Ambleside playground or football field too. I loved Jamie, Jas and Sunya but really disliked the adults. Is this a coincidence that all the middle grade books I’ve read recently are about awful adults who you really don’t want to be like? These aren’t just the adults who are a bit of a pain because they won’t let you do what you want or embarrass you in the way that adults seem to be embarrassing. No, these adults really are a bit – yeah, awful.
For me, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece was close to a perfect read but I found the lead up to the end disappointing. No spoilers but I think one part could have been left out – it seemed a bit cheesy and out of place.
A wonderful read for any age. It really is a feast.
2011, Indigo (Orion), London, paperback
Copy: our own