I picked this up as someone I’m following gave it a high rating, and it sounded rather intriguing, although definitely not an easy read.
Jude’s life is tinged with tragedy from an early age – she is just 6 years old when she finds her mother after she has committed suicide. This devastating event obviously has a huge effect on Jude’s life, that of her father and of their relationship and life together.
Jude tells noone of the note that she found with her mother that explained she had gone to search for Adam, but keeps it in a tin to which she adds mementos from other life-defining moments throughout her life.
Jude’s shattered childhood seems to leave her in the dark side of the world, leaving her open to abuse (both mental and sexual) as we follow her through her young life in the 80s.
I have read some very bleak and difficult books over the years, dealing with all sorts of subjects – I wont shy away from something just because I think it might make me feel uncomfortable. I think child abuse and murder were dealt with extremely effectively in both the fantastic Sugar & Spice and Blood Guilt for example.
But oh. my. God. This wasn’t just grim, this wasn’t just harrowing, this was MISERABLE. It was literally just a study in misery. I was so grateful when the book came to an end as I was completely mentally exhausted.
It was a bit like one of those onions you get that look OKish from the outside, but then you notice that the top couple of layers are a bit mouldy, so you peel further down thinking you’re going to get to a nice clean layer in a minute, and it’s only once you get down to the middle that you realise it was rotten all the way through after all.
It was gruelling to read. I know that there is no doubt an argument to say that there really are kids in the country that are going through the same kind of thing in reality and that this story should bring people’s attention to how kids can be affected by their experiences, but I have to say, it actually felt far too miserable and grim to even feel believable.
It felt that it had been written to make a point, although I feel that I missed the point that it was trying to make. There was a lot of repetition in the story too, which was admittedly Jude’s way of dealing with things, and taking comfort in familiarity, but unlike the captivating OCD moments in Into The Darkest Corner, they felt rather superfluous and rather much like padding.
At the end of the book, there was a rather self-indulgent feeling Q&A with the author, that I read out of sheer fascination, but felt even more horrified by to be quite honest.
I am sure that there are a lot of fantastic reviews of this book around – it feels like that kind of ‘worthy’ book that people will rate highly as it’s tackling a taboo subject, and pushing the expectations of readers. But for me, it was more like reading a terrible report on child cruelty that went on for 300 pages, with no form of ‘entertainment’ for the reader that I feel is acceptable to expect from a noevl.
Of course, that’s just MY opinion ;) Don’t let me put you off!
***UPDATE*** I have just noticed that Caroline Smailes also wrote Like Bees To Honey which I didn’t enjoy either as I found it so badly repetitive! Hopefully I will remember the name next time!