Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: When God Was A Rabbit

When God Was A Rabbit
By Sarah Winman 
Headline Publishing Group May 2011
341 pages
Borrowed from my sister

When God Was a Rabbit

This is a story about love - not romantic love, but the love of childhood. When God Was a Rabbit is about the relationship between Elly and her brother Joe. Elly and Joe grow up in England in the 1970s and 1980s, first in Essex and then in a remote bed and breakfast in Cornwall. Their charming, although not quite idyllic, childhood helps them to get through the difficult transition to adulthood. 

I hadn't heard anything about this book before my sister said I should read it. She found it in a hostel in Russia while traveling abroad. While this book isn't perfect, I found myself really drawn into Elly's life. Her family is good at holding family close and bringing other people into the fold. They adopt elderly neighbors, who become another aunt or an extra grandpa, and close childhood friends seem like just a few more siblings. This reminded me a lot of my own family.

Books about growing up can easily become saccharine. We want to remember our childhood as a happy time, but an overly simplistic and adorable look at our early years is a tough thing to read. Happily, Winman does not fall into this trap. Childhood is magic but as we all know, magic means dragons and monsters too. There are very dark moments in this story. Instead of shying away from them, we see how they haunt us and shape us through the years. Winman is a unique writer - her prose makes this different than any childhood story you have read. 

This story also has a sense of humor. As you read, you may find yourself laughing and then wondering it you should have laughed at what just occurred. But in the midst of the humor, this comes very close to being an issues book. Elly's family seems to be affected by every major event that happens on both sides of the pond during the years the book covers. When Elly and Joe are affected by 9/11, I wanted to groan at yet again another writer capitalizing on this tragedy. But I was wrong - Winman uses it carefully and I found myself loving the characters enough to go along with the story.

When God Was a Rabbit reminds us of the strength of family and the resiliency of the bond between siblings. Few modern stories capture both the sparkling magic and the intense darkness of childhood, but Sarah Winman's debut novel manages to bring both to vivid life. 


  1. I always enjoy books about the bonds of a family and realistic portrayals - I'm definitely going to look it to this book a bit more. It sounds like one of those books that prove to be an unlikely treasure. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lindsey.
    Bits & Bobs

    1. Yes! An unlikely treasure sounds just right. I was hesitant because I had never heard of it, but I really enjoyed it.

  2. Another book I haven't heard of... you'd think I never read, or go to a bookstore, or hang out at the library... :) Thanks for the heads up on this one. It sounds good.

    1. Haha...there are just so many books! How will we ever know about them all, much less read them?!?!