Synopsis: I always thought you’d know, somehow, if something terrible was going to happen. I thought you’d sense it, like when the air goes damp and heavy before a storm and you know you’d better hide yourself away somewhere safe until it all blows over.
But it turns out it’s not like that at all. There’s no scary music playing in the background like in films. No warning signs. Not even a lonely magpie. One for sorrow, Mum used to say. Quick, look for another.
The world can tip at any moment … a fact that fifteen-year-old Pearl is all too aware of when her mum dies after giving birth to her baby sister. Told across the year following her mother’s death, Pearl’s story is full of bittersweet humour and heartbreaking honesty about how you deal with grief that cuts you to the bone, as she tries not only to come to terms with losing her mum, but also the fact that her sister – The Rat – is a constant reminder of why her mum is no longer around…
200words (or less) review: Clare Furniss gets it. Pearl’s grief is real and Clare Furness’s writing has an understanding that doesn’t happen as often as it should with books dealing with death. Truthfully, The Year of the Rat made such an impact on me because I felt like the author knew what she was writing about.
The story begins with the funeral of Pear’s mother. We learn that Pearl’s “Dad” isn’t her real father but she has always seen him as such and that her mum died while pregnant. Pearl’s baby sister, The Rat, survived and Pearl hates her for it. Her dad goes to the hospital every day to see The Rat and Pearl feels abandoned and rejected.
Given that Pearl’s mother is dead she has an awful lot to say to her teenage daughter, their talks are such a wonderful part of this story. Apart from the writing (which of course is excellent) Clare Furniss provides characters that will stay with you. I loved Pearl but it was Dulcie that really got to me.
This is the moment I knew Clare Furniss understood:
“They get quieter over the years. They still whisper to you sometimes, but the world gets louder. You can see is and hear it again. There’s a gap in it, where they used to be. but you get used to the gap so used to it that you hardly see it… And then some days, out of nowhere, you’re making the tea or hanging the washing or sitting on the bus and it’s there again: that aching, empty space that will never be filled.“
The Year of the Rat is marvellous, magnificent, superb, lovely, delightful, incredible, etc – in other words: Go read it NOW.