The Chronicles of Narmo – Caitlin Moran

moran_narmoAfter How to be a Woman I have a bit of a crush on Caitlin Moran, and so The Chronicles of Narmo was an obvious purchase when I managed a few minutes in a book shop in London. It’s a short novel, written when Moran was just fifteen and based on her own family’s (mis)adventures.

It’s not a brilliant book. As a narrative it only works haltingly and there isn’t much of a plot, really. Where it excels is where Moran still excels, in the clever turn of phrase. It is what makes the book worth reading.

In order to reach the Earth, the Sun has to travel eighty million million miles, across the universe, through the atmospheres and magnetic pulls of countless planets; it has to seep its way through clouds of stardust twelve thousand miles thick. It plays leapfrog with time and has a neat little party trick of standing where it was eight and a half minutes ago. And still – after all this exertion – it still had the energy to struggle through the yellowing nets and purple nylon curtains of Bill and Carol’s bedroom, and wake them up.

(P 48) Not entirely accurate astronomy-wise, perhaps, but still rather lovely.

When God was a Rabbit – Sarah Winman

winmanThis book is really horrible. I started crying about two thirds of the way through, and then I never really stopped, and the last 50 or so pages were really hard to read because of having to continually blow my nose and dry my eyes. Horrible, horrible.

So, naturally, this book is really, really good and you should read it.

The story is told by Elly and is a story of her and her brother an her best friend Jenny Penny and about Elly’s extended family. Pretty much every character is unforgettable and Winman makes me care deeply about each and every one, even the ones that aren’t entirely pleasant.

Jenny Penny wants to be adopted into Elly’s family, and though I am quite happy with the family I have, I can’t help but feel the attraction. Elly’s parents end up running a bed & breakfast i Cornwall, and I wish they were real, because I want to become a returning guest.

A new decade dawned, and my parents would eventually have guests who returned to them year after year, and who would all be a bit like us – a collage of the useful and impractical, the heady and the mundane.

It often occurred to me that normal people never stayed with us, or if they did it was certainly for no longer than the one eye-opening night.

(p. 132)

Few of the relationships in the book are straightforward, and I guess it is telling when “We raised our glasses and were about to toast the queer union” (p. 239) refers to Elly’s aunt intending to marry a man, and “queer” is both highly ironic and precisely the right word.

On the whole Winman’s choice of words is spot on, and I found myself wanting to underline turns of phrase on almost every page. Early on Elly is given a rather ridiculous-looking coat by a neighbour and her parents make her wear it out of politeness, and she observes:

although it was keeping the cold at bay, I felt it was simply because the cold stopped as it approached me and burst into laughter, rather than by any practical means.

(p. 61) And the book is simply littered with such gems.

In short, a book I can wholeheartedly reccommend. This is Sarah Winman’s debut. I, for one, am looking forward to her next book.