Monday, December 31, 2012

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

This is an intriguing and highly unusual novel written entirely in verse. It is quite unlike anything else being published for teenagers at the moment. The book tells the story of Kasienka who has arrived with her mother from Poland in search of her father. He has left their home and travelled to England for a new life. Through the poems we are given an insight into how Kasienka perceives her mother's depression and obsession with finding her husband as they wear their boots out searching Coventry for Tata (Father). We also learn of Kasienka's problems adjusting to life in an English school as she encounters prejudice, bullying and finally friendship. Through a friendly neighbour Tata is found and Kasienka learns that she has a stepmother and a baby half-sister. She is now torn between two families. Swimming becomes her refuge and not only is it fun she is also very good at it and winning gives her a new found confidence. The book's greatest strength is as a poignant portrait of the loneliness of a child who has reached puberty and feels not only the weight of her own worries but all the responsibility for her parent’s happiness. Sarah Crossan is a talented author who has already completed her second novel for teens Breathe which is the first of a dystopian trilogy. The Weight of Water is enjoyable and unique and will appeal to children aged eleven and over especially fans of Sita Brahmachari and Annabel Pitcher.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

Donal Ryan won both best newcomer and best book at this year’s Irish Book Awards no small achievement for a debut author but it will have come as no surprise to those who have read this small but very powerful novel. This is the first attempt in fiction to examine the aftermath of the financial crash on the ordinary Irish people. The book is divided into twenty one individual first person narratives from interconnected characters. Rather than try to paint a broad picture of the aftermath of the housing boom and bust Ryan has instead opted to concentrate on the impact on one small Tipperary town.  The voices are unique but share a bitterness and bewilderment at their circumstances. The mood of depression and anger is palpable and violence simmers below the surface throughout before finally exploding. There are echoes of Patrick Kavanagh in the writing style and Ryan joins the ranks of talented young writers now emerging in Ireland, including Kevin Barry, Paul Murray and Joe Murphy. Despite the anger which leaps off the page the unifying thread in this compelling story is love and the search for love as Triona the final voice in the novel states “What matters only love?”