‘I feel nothing inside, just a big, empty hole - and I hope it stays like that because the idea of feeling anything is unbearable.’
Tough themes have been a recurring themes in many novels during the past 18 months in particular. Think The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (soon to be turned into a film) and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - with honesty, directness and respect for their readers they delve into death, tackling it head on.
Rebecca Westcott’s striking debut novel, Dandelion Clocks, does just that for a younger age group. This is a novel you are going to hear lots, and lots, about this year.
At the heart of this striking piece of writing, is the voice of Liv. Eleven years old, she is about to face the most tumultuous six months of her young life.
Liv’s voice is darn realistic.
Her stuttering and honest observations about ‘Moronic Louise’ and ‘the Ben’ are open and amusing. In particular is the unforgettable comical opening scene, depicting Mum bursting into ‘Hairs & Things’ having discovered her daughter about to ‘disfigure herself’ by getting her ears pierced ... leaving poor Liv ‘shrinking into the floor’ with embarrassment.
Liv’s naivety is endearing.
As a reader we pick up on the clues leading to the inevitable conclusion - her mum isn’t well, her mum’s illness is terminal - before Liv does. Through this wonderfully effective technique Westcott gently prepares her readers, heightening their empathy for Liv and gently guiding them through the novel.
Westcott is deliberately sketchy on the specific details relating to Mum’s illness and eventual death.
The focus is on Liv.
The diary like narrative enables the reader to get to know her in a comforting manner. Her naivety, her honesty, pulls the reader in to her world as she navigates what life throws at her.
There is a particularly touching scene when Liv and her Dad return from the funeral. Liv is shocked that ‘all those people are in our house’ ... ‘Celebrate? What are we supposed to be celebrating?’ Rather than going inside they take solace in the garden ‘swinging gently, not really speaking much, but the silence is a good silence.’ These strong relationships, Liv’s comforting family, are what pulls her through.
Original, emotional, and deeply, deeply sensitive Westcott has crafted a novel that stays with the reader for all the right reasons.
‘The funny thing about being utterly terrified and scared and miserable is that it isn’t consistent’
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