‘My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.
In heaven, Susie Salmon can have whatever she wishes for- except what she most wants, which is to be back with the people she loved on earth. In the wake of her murder, Susie watches as her unhappy suburban family is torn apart by grief, as her friends grow up, fall in love, and do all the things she never had the chance to do herself. Bus as Susie will come to realise, even in death, life is not quite out of reach…’
‘The Lovely Bones’ has been a story I’ve been familiar with since Peter Jackson’s hit film adaptation back in 2009, starring Oscar Nominees Irish actress Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci. This was the first film I watched that both scared me and enchanted me. I adored the concept of a soul narrating the story from heaven and Stanley Tucci’s performance as pedophile and murderer Mr Harvey chilled me to the core. The film was so good I remember it inspired me to want to read the book but it wasn’t until I saw a copy in my local Waterstones a few months ago that this desire re-awoke in me. But I’m so very glad it did.
I absolutely loved reading this book, from the first sentence to the last. I immediately identified with Susie Salmon as someone I could not only understand but also care about. I cared whether Susie was happy, whether her family coped and whether her murderer got his comeuppance almost straight away. I found myself loving all the people she loved, eagerly watching all those she couldn’t bear to leave behind and missing all those opportunities she’d missed out on. The writing was absolutely stunning and Alice Sebold is clearly very talented as she wove such an intricate story, and such a delicate one too, in such a masterful way. It wasn’t just another story about a man who had lost someone desperate for revenge, it really was Susie’s story and that was so refreshing, unique and beautiful.
The great thing about this novel is just how different it is. I’ve never before read a book where the narrator is dead and in heaven. It’s such a unique vantage point and allows for such a lot of fantastic conversations like how Susie feels about her family’s struggles in grief, her loneliness and how she views Mr Harvey and what happens to him after he’s killed her. The tone was a perfect mixture of longing and hope and I thought it suited the plot and voice perfectly. My favourite detail was Susie mentioning how she thought the perfect murder weapon was an icicle and then Mr Harvey dying by being hit by an icicle. Whether Sebold wanted it to feel like Susie finally getting some resolution and peace knowing she wouldn’t be meeting any more of Mr Harvey’s victims or whether she wanted it to seem like an act of justice from God himself (I prefer it to be Susie) it doesn’t seem to matter, it’s just such a great way to round up the narrative. It made me feel very at ease with an ending that wasn’t especially conventional. There was no happy ever after, no family reunion or big next step once Susie had seen her family to the other side of grieving. It was just Susie’s heaven and her peace in it and it felt like that was enough.
Honestly, I can’t really express how much I loved this book. How it unashamedly looked into some of the more darker aspects of human nature and yet still managed to find hope and peace. Susie didn’t turn into some haunting ghost intent on being avenged. She was still a young girl at heart who wanted to protect her family and watch her sister grow up to be the adult she would never be. This book both broke my heart and fixed it over and over again and I know it will be a story I will continue to love for years to come.