Thursday, June 14, 2012

Guest Post: Book Review: The Lovely Bones

Guest Post done by my good friend from Kuching, Syed Rafie, who's an extrovert, has a way with words, and all round awesome friend to have :)

Read and enjoy!

The biggest mistake one can make about any book is to assume that the movie is representative of what the source material is supposed to be all about. Those that have taken one look at the movie and assumed the worst of Alice Sebold’s prose should remember that the movie’s ambitions fall flat simply because of the high standards set by the author’s literary efforts.

 But we are getting ahead of ourselves. What exactly is the Lovely Bones all about?

The Lovely Bones weaves a tale through the eyes of 14 year old Susie Salmon, a girl that has been raped and murdered. She observes her family and friends in the afterlife, watching as they all try to come to grips with the horror of her passing and move on with their lives. It is through them that Susie learns of life. Of growing up. Of pain, love, longing and loss. And when she is finally ready to let go, we are with her as she finally finds the courage to say goodbye.

What he has to say:
The first thing that is apparent about Sebold’s writing style is its adherence to language that any 14 year old (albeit one with a talent for words) would use. It is this continuous usage of the same verbal leanings that lend the book an air of plausibility in terms of the journey the main character follows. Everyone else gets older, but no matter what, Susie is still a 14 year old at heart.

Simple, na├»ve, good natured to a fault and ever so earnest, Susie seems to be the perfect teenage girl. Too perfect in fact. This threatens to derail the book early on, as we struggle to grasp the idea. It gets much better when more of Susie is revealed, and we understand that there is plenty that she’s deficient at. Instead of the tragi-comedy stylings of a nice guy, we have what amounts to a nice girl.

The windows we have into the minds of all of the characters, from the steely and ultimately manic resolve of the father, to the cold and calculating cruelty of her murderer, are light in their treatment of the subject matter, but have a surprising amount of depth. We forget that even though Susie is young and requisitely simplistic in her vocabulary, it does not mean that she is necessarily simple-minded in her outlook.

It is nice to see that such emotional and psychological musings can be conveyed without need to resort to complicated literary devices. This is by far the book’s biggest accomplishment, and also its biggest failing. It can easily be viewed as limp-wristed and far too juvenile in its portrayal of things such as murder, rape and the disintegration of human minds. We are of course, dealing with the viewpoint of a 14 year old girl. However, we can also view it as the horrors of our world as seen through the eyes of a teenager that has had her life tragically cut short. Her subsequent observations are informed by her truncated existence. Susie cannot become an adult, and her outlook cannot do so either.

It is not necessarily the responsibility of the author to inflect emotion on behalf of the reader. Sebold has been accused of not being more intricate in her descriptions and contextualisation, though I disagree. The Lovely Bones is a beautifully simple yet emotively complex book that, if you choose to let yourself do so, will reward your faith in the idea that there is always something good to come out of whatever black tragedies we face in our daily lives.

About the Writer
Hailing from Kuching, Sarawak, Syed Rafie is more than just a wordsmith with an unnatural love for electronics, gadgets and video games. Working as a writer and editor at Malaysia’s largest online shopping mall, Lazada Malaysia, he tends to favour pursuits that challenge his lack of physical refinement and his obvious intellectual deficiencies. Connect with him on Google+, or follow him on Twitter (@origamiblade) for more product news, previews, reviews, comparisons and personal thoughts that could mangle your understanding of the space-time continuum.


Hilda Milda™ said...

It was indeed an interesting read! (:

Lina Tan said...

I haven't got the chance to read the book yet but I've watched the movie. Very touching~~~ Gotta get the book! :)

Great review!

Syed Rafie said...

Hey guys, thanks for the positive comments.

If you like what you read, then tell Choulyin to make this a bi-weekly thing :)I'm more than willing to write up more stuff.