Sunday, 20 November 2011

My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

All the cliched terms can be applied to Annabel Pitcher's wonderful novel,  My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece published earlier this year by Orion Books.   
"Beautiful, stunning, blown away"  and the rest can all be used to describe my feelings about this fabulous debut novel from an incredibly gifted young author. 
I don't have many connections these days with ten year old boys, and wondered whether I would relate to James's story.  

It only took a couple of pages for me to fall completely in love with his character, his language and his feelings.  James and his sister Jasmine are living in a remote Lake District village with their Father, not cared for by their Father, just sharing a house with him.   
Since their sister Rose was killed five years ago by a terrorist bomb in central London, their family has slowly fallen to pieces.   

Dad drowns his sorrows in the bottom of a beer can whilst worshipping the urn of Rose's ashes that lives on the mantelpiece and ignoring the needs of his remaining children.   

Mum upped and left them, to go to live with Nigel from her 'support group' - turning her back on the grief of her husband and making a new life for herself is her way of coping.
James and Jasmine deal with the after effects of this in their own little ways.   Jas decides to dress in black and dye her hair pink, that's her public face, her private way of coping with things includes not eating until her bones stick through her clothes and bunking off school to spend time with her green-haired boyfriend.    

James has Roger the cat to comfort him, along with his Spider Man inspired dreams and most recently Sunya - the girl he sits next to in school.    

Sunya is a Muslim and 'Muslims killed Rose', well, according to his Dad they did.   James struggles terribly with what his Dad has told him about Muslims and how he feels about Sunya - he's is split down the middle.   

Should he please his Dad, who ignores him?   Or should he spend time with Sunya, who appears to care for him and makes him happy?
Annabel Pitcher
This is very very brave writing, it tackles relevant and topical subjects heads on with painfully honest writing and wonderfully realistic characters and settings.  

The story is compelling, it's often heart-breaking but it's often joyful - just as young children are in real life.  

Although aimed initially at the Children and Young Adult market, adults should read this and learn.
An outstanding debut novel.  I believe Annabel Pitcher's next book is due for release early next year - I will be first in the queue to buy it.


  1. Fantastic news. My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece is on the Red House Children's Book Awards shortlist.

  2. I was tempted by this Anne as I liked your review but still not sure enough to add it to my wishlist.

  3. Give it a go Linda - it's only a short novel. If you like YA fiction, then I think you'll really enjoy it.