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The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Posted by RB Kollannur on October 7, 2012


Note: This review is part of a weekly book review column that I write for City Journal, an English newspaper based in Thrissur, Kerala.

Published on 29/09/2012

Publisher – Picador; Year of Publication – 2002; Pages – 328

A rape and a murder, that too of a fourteen year old girl, is a very unconventional way to start a novel, but Alice Sebold has managed to strike an emotive chord doing just that in her “The Lovely Bones”. Susie Salmon meets her unfortunate death in the early pages of the novel, but instead of lingering on in the coldness of the crime, the author allows Salmon to transcend her earthly abode and move on to heaven where she sits and watches over her family, friends and, at times, her murderer.

“The Lovely Bones” is about the Salmon family who have to cope up with the sudden loss of a daughter. The death leaves the family with an irreparable scar; guilt driving the father into depression and the mother away from the family. Lindsey, Susie’s younger sister, has to now nurture her family back to health and also look after her younger brother, Buckley. The novel is high on emotions, but not on drama, which makes it a better read. There are also flashbacks from Salmon’s life which help us better relate to these characters and develop concern over their personal angst.

Inevitably, the book has a sad theme, but embedded with hope.

The portrayal of heaven in the novel as a very subjective world also adds an interesting dimension to the story. There is a certain perverseness to the idea of watching people without their knowledge like Susie does from heaven, but it does have its advantages.

As the story unfolds, more is revealed of the villain’s murderous past and his schemes for the future. Although, we (along with Susie) watch in vain as Harvey, the villain, carries on his undertakings with certain impunity, there is hope that he will slip up in the future.

Other characters like Ray Singh with whom Salmon was involved and Grandma Lynn, Susie’s grandmother, who comes to rescue her other granddaughter’s attempt in saving her family, also brings additional themes to the story that could have been explored a bit more.

The movie based on the novel was released in 2009, directed by Peter Jackson of the LOTR fame and starred Stanley Tucci who received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the man who murdered Salmon.

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One Response to “The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold”

  1. […] Published on 16/09/2012 28)  Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson – Published on 22/09/2012 29) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – Published on 29/09/2012 30) Along Came a Spider by James Patterson – Published on […]

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