Two weeks ago I went for a book sale where books were being sold by kilo. These were mostly second hand books. Since all the fiction books were stacked randomly I had to go through each book to pick what I wanted. While going through the books I chanced upon some very interesting titles which I had not heard of. One of them was When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman. I read the little summary on the back of the cover and picked it up with other 20 books.
First published in 2011, When God Was a Rabbit is narrated by Eleanor Maud (Elly) who grows up in Essex with her brother Joe and parents who are constantly planning to move out of the village. Eventually the family moves to Cornwall. As Elly grows up in her new home new characters are introduced in the story, all of them bring their own quirks. The story begins in England in 1960-70s and moves on to the post 9/11 New York.
When God Was a Rabbit has all the elements that make childhood. Forever lasting friendships, imaginations, secrets and confusions. At times the events are heartbreaking and at times they give hope to the story in the most beautiful way. Elly’s defiance makes her a loner, she asks questions hence is looked upon strangely by her peers. But she finds an eternal friend in strange but intriguing Jenny Penny who lives with her mother and dreams of a hidden world. Even before they set out to find the world of their dreams Elly has to move away with her family. Uprooted and angry slowly Elly and Joe find their way around the new home and new life. Years later Elly reconnects with Jenny Penny under circumstances she could never have imagined.
Despite the elements like sexual abuse, homosexuality and even 9/11 the narration never turns melodramatic. Sarah Winman keeps the humour in her writing intact. Her characters react to situations in a way that make them seem more real. Winman picks up a lot of Historical references and blends them in her story like John Lennon’s murder or the attack on The World Trade Centre. She also paints a fine picture of that era through her descriptions.
When God Was a Rabbit is not an innocent tale of childhood, it’s mature and has shades of grim but the story still stays believable.
Book: When God Was a Rabbit
Author: Sarah Winman
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
Price: Paperback – $10.99, Kindle – $2.82 on Amazon