Current Affairs

Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom – 5/10

I really must find a way of tracking which
blog I got a recommendation from. With a Google Reader book blog list 2 screens
long, trying to put in a bit at the end of a blog about “other bloggers who
liked this book” is nigh on impossible. I’m attempting an Excel spreadsheet
format at the moment.

People You Meet in Heaven
is a simply-told tale
of an 83-year-old amusement park ride mechanic and his death trying to save a
little girl from a tragedy when a piece of machinery breaks. He is disappointed
to find heaven unlike his expectations – instead he is greeted by a succession
of people in their own chosen heavens who explain his life to him. Some he knew
and loved, others were strangers to him.

The tragedies of his life are overwhelming –
poverty, a wife who died before her time, depression – and there isn’t much to
be joyful about. This, in my opinion, is the book’s downfall – it feels
unbalanced, and his eventual choice for his own heaven is confusing. I also
found the style too simple – if the book is to be so bleakly tragic, it needs
more weight behind it – more Wuthering
and less Bambi.

Current Affairs, YA fiction

Elsewhere – Gabrielle Zevin – 8/10

I mooched Elsewhere for my sister; it
had been recommended somewhere
for young adults, and I am trying to interest her in something other than
Twilight and its offshoots. When it arrived, I thought I ought to read it first
– we have recently had a death in the family and I didn’t want to post off a
tragedy without knowing what I was responsible for. So I sat down to read it.

And looked up three hours later, having
finished it.

A relatively simple structure, based around
the idea that Heaven (or “Elsewhere” here – there is no alternative for bad
people) is much like Earth, but that people age backwards from death until
infancy and are then dispatched back to Earth. Possibly not a revolutionary
idea, but certainly an interesting one.

It was this same not overly ambitious,
rather efficient manner with which Zevin described life, romance and set-backs
in Elsewhere, and apart from some people being born with the innate ability to
speak canine, with which I struggled, I found this a delightful take on tragedy
(our heroine Liz dies aged 15 in a cycling accident). Characters were
reasonable – everyday members of the family and community, nothing
extraordinary – and well-developed, only as far as was necessary, which I felt
was very appropriate for a YA novel.

I haven’t sent it on to my sister, but I
will do once things are a bit less emotional in the family.