Adventures in Reading

Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones
October 14, 2007, 7:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Alice Sebold’s newest book The Almost Moon comes out on the 16th and in preparation I reread The Lovely Bones this afternoon while locking myself in the house to recover from a cold. I first read The Lovely Bones in 2004 with an online book community and I loved it (if I did not entirely get it), and in recent months I have heard a lot of mixed reviews. Some people continue to tout it as a phenomenal book but increasingly I have seen rather disparaging online reviews. Some which are of the “if it’s popular it sucks” variety (a camp I have stayed at once or twice myself) to some more earnestly critical reviews. So for the first time in Adventures in Reading history we will travel back in time to visit 2004 opinion and then transport back to the present to see what I think of the book four years later.

From August 2004 (with minor editing):

I finished Lovely Bones in a very brief time. (This community seems to be quite good at picking books I can’t put down.) It was a fabulous and touching read. I think Sebold did a fabulous job on the Salmon family and their handling of grief after the murder. I think it was mentioned before, but the development of the mother was extremely well done.

I enjoyed a lot of the side characters, but while reading it I wondered if there were possibly too many characters flitting in and out of the book and that there could have been more characters as developed as the mother if there had been over all less characters.

I’ll admit at the beginning I was quite uncomfortable. The brutality of rape and murder is difficult for many people to read about and once I had made the connection what was happening there was a part of me that cringed at how far she would go in the telling of the incident since it is extremely important. For me, Sebold went far enough to make my stomach flip at the horror, just far enough.

While I certainly enjoyed the parts about Heaven I certainly couldn’t find that they were all relevant, perhaps I was missing something. I understand towards the end the somewhat influx of Heavenly passages…perhaps it’s just another aspect of the book I find that could have been developed more.

Over all fantastic book that I’d recommend to almost anyone, I just wish it had been longer.

From October 2007:

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is a story narrated by a pre-adolescent girl who is brutally raped and murdered within the first chapter. The book told through her as she looks down upon her friends, family, community, and murderer from heaven. However, if I left it at that so much of the novel would go untouched. I suppose it is almost easier to pull the camera back and say the novel is about fear expressed from the victim’s of our culture: women and children, or I could say it is about a complex family coping with a horrible event, about gender roles and distinctions in society, or about judgment, revenge, and retribution, or I can admit that the novel is about much more than I can properly give it credit for.

It is true that certain passages are difficult in the gut-wrenching-nauseous sense, but I give a great deal of credit to Sebold for writing these passages with sensitivity and a certain amount of whimsical reflection. I absolutely could not set the book down, I loved the characters and had greater appreciation for them, though I can say this time around I found the book a bit too long. I also applaud Sebold for crafting such a violent story that raises it above so many modern hack-n-slash novels.

I did find the idea of retribution, revenge, and judgment particularly interesting. Through the entire book, the diseased Suzie keeps contact with the human world almost entirely though watching. However, occasions exist where she slips through including a memorable passage where she enters a person’s body. But perhaps the two most memorable incidents are when Suzie attempts to get a dying/dead plant to bloom (and fails) and the question of whether or not Suzie achieves revenge by killing her murderer at the end of the novel.

All together though a brilliant book that everyone should read.

Also a review of The Lovely Bones at Out of the Blue.

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