Books

The Land of Decoration – Grace McCleen

What child has not wished for snow so they did not have to go to school the next day?

For Judith that wish comes true. But it is not so she can go and play in it. It is for a much darker reason, she wants to avoid the school bullies who seem to have targeted her.

But the bullying comes away from the school playground and infiltrates right into Judith’s life. It affects her home now as well.

You see Judith could be seen to be different. She is not. Her family has chosen to follow a devout religion which does not have celebrations at Christmas or Birthdays, where Armageddon is not far away and those that have sinned will be brought to justice. These are the people who preached door to door and that many of the locals avoid by crossing the street, and hiding when the door knocked.

This brought Judith into isolation with only her father for company at home. Her mother having died having Judith we discover as we read. Judith seeks solace in her own land – one she created and one she could control.

So when she made it snow in her land and then the very next day it snowed in the world she thought she had gained the power to change everything, A voice was even telling her so.

But having power is not always a good thing as Judith finds out. Can she really control the world from her land of sweet wrappers, pipe cleaners, paper and other bits of rubbish?

This is a powerful novel which has stayed with me long after I have read it. The religious aspect was fascinating, the way that this lonely girl was portrayed by the author was at times emotional and others rather challenging. It felt like Judith was trying to be an adult without having first been a child. It was the new teacher at school who seemed to break the restricted and constructed life that Judith was perhaps living, and Judith’s bullying ran in parallel to what her father suffered when the strike at the factory started; it was bullying but in a different form for him. The ending was very different for both of them.

It is a well constructed novel, the short chapters kept me focused on what was going on and there was never a time where you had to take stock of where you had got to and revisit something you had just read. It never actually mentions the religion that Judith and her father are part of. It never mentions the location they are living in. The work that went on in the local factory before the strike. It has just suggestions of everything, leaving the reader to choose exactly, who, what when, where and why. A very clever twist to this novel that I think is the main reason it has stayed with me.

Upon reflection this is a novel which is unusual, it does not tie up all the loose ends, which some may want from a novel and it perhaps raises more questions than give answers to. If you like a neat ending, then perhaps this is not the book for you. If you want something different, told in the voice of a child then perhaps tackle this novel and see how you feel once you have read it.

This was my book club’s choice for September. It was not a book I would have picked up if I am honest, in fact I think by just getting a feel from it on reviews etc, I would have avoided it. I am so glad now I have read it. Not being from an overtly religious family I related to the strict religious code from an outsiders point of view – being on the receiving end of the door knocking.

I was fascinated by the childhood creation of the land Judith had created, it brought back memories of myself as a child and a whole lot of Lego. It sadly brought back being bullied and also that fervent wish whether it be through praying from some sort of miracle that something would happen just to make everything alright again.

I look forward to hearing what everyone else thinks at my book club and this is a book I would recommend quite easily. It proves that sometimes you need to take a chance on books and test yourself.

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