When God Was A Rabbit – Review

Whilst on holiday this year I read When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman and my only basis for deciding to read it was that the title intrigued me and I can honestly say that I’m really glad I read it. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read in my life but it’s definitely not the worst and I believe the reason I enjoyed it so much was because it’s a very unique book that actually holds meaning and teaches you morals and life lessons as you go, so here’s a little (or should I say big!) review on it for you guys! I hope you enjoy!

‘This is a book about a brother and a sister. It’s a book about childhood and growing up, friendships and families, triumph and tragedy and everything in between. More than anything it’s a book about love in all its forms.’

That’s what the author says this book is about, and she’s right, I agree with all of that, however to me, it’s also about many other things and to you, should you choose to read it, I’m sure it will be about different things. This is a book which changes and belongs individually to whoever chooses to pick it up and read it. Winman disguises the big questions in our world with a story about a seemingly normal family.

Elly, the narrator of the novel begins as a child; however I’m pretty certain that by the age of ten she holds more life experience than most adults in the world, however the naivety of childhood still plays a huge part in the development and duration of the novel… Although, how can we expect a young child to know how to respond to rape, having a gay brother and a best friend who leads a life of abandonment and abuse, especially when you think it’s the norm…

There are hidden treasures within this novel and small sentences which create the largest impact. One that made me completely break down due to its perfect realness was: ‘I divide my life into two parts. Not really a before or after, more as if they are book ends, holding together flaccid years of empty musings, years of late adolescent or the twenty-something whose coat of adulthood simply does not fit.’ How it is possible for such a small section of a book to have such an impact in unbeknown to me, however this really did and I think it helps sum up the content of the book extremely well,

As Elly grows she doesn’t necessarily mature, but she learns how life should be and realises that hers doesn’t exactly correspond.

Winman’s ability to combine the lives of so many individuals without making the book messy and confusing is outstanding; how does Jenny Penny’s life in prison, Joe’s life in New York with his childhood lover Charlie, Ginger’s life with cancer and Arthurs death by coconut (yes, there is humour in this book too!) all link back to Elly?

‘We stood in the middle of our garden unsheltered and unprotected and looked around at the turbulence of the lives we backed onto, sat next to, the lives of neighbours, and it shook clear our apathy until we saw again what our life here had been. There was the sledge our father has made, the one we took to school, the envy of all; and the ghosts of swings and climbing frames that had held us and dropped us, the sources of our tears. And we saw again the cricket and football matches that had scuffed the grass bare at the bottom lawn. And we remembered the tents we had made and the nights spent within, imaginary countries, us the explorers. There was suddenly so much to say goodbye to.’

I think this extract is not only a beautiful piece of writing, but it’s also so effective because I think most of us can relate to a time in our lives, more specifically in our childhoods where we felt similar to this.

Overall this book is extremely powerful and I believe it makes you consider life and its importance.

If you were wondering, God is Elly’s pet rabbit, he talks and pops up here and there in the novel…


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