Van has finished reading…The Last Days Of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

2 Mar

It’s hard to know where to start with this book. To talk about how very, very funny it is is to give the wrong impression entirely. There again, though unremitting in its portrayal of what it is to suffer, and also of what it is to be helpless in the face of the suffering of someone you love, that’s not nearly the whole story. To talk about how well drawn the characters are is to reduce it to something akin to a technical exercise. To talk about it in any way seems almost to talk around it rather than address it head on. But that’s how we tend to deal with things, isn’t it?

Rabbit Hayes is dying – I don’t think I’m giving anything away by telling you that – and her family are gathered around her, trying to do everything and anything they can. To fix it. To get through it. To understand it. Perhaps even to ignore it entirely, at least for a time. What I wasn’t prepared for is just how quickly this book took the breath from my mouth. Four pages in and I couldn’t see. And I don’t mean that oh-I’ve-just-got-something-in-my-eye moment. I mean proper fat tears rolling out. And it did it to me again and again. Make no mistake, this is a book to break the heart.
But you’d expect that to an extent, given the title and the subject matter. What’s so formidable about this book, I think, is the honing-in on those little private moments that make the characters more than mere characters. When you’ve caught your breath, sit back and see just how studied those little moments are: Jack holding it in for Molly on the roadside; the instant of cold silence after Molly’s said the wrong thing – again; Grace and the mug; Davey’s split-second decision; Grace’s kids and the way they are with their mother – I’m welling up just remembering it! It connected with me in a quite visceral way. Its power I think is in how recognisable, how relatable it is – these hundred tiny things that we do daily become suddenly freighted with a power to push us beyond, or outside of ourselves, and we think – yes, I’ve done that, I’ve reacted in that way; or perhaps, if only I’d…

Did I mention how funny this book is? It’d take a far more knowing cultural commentator than I to explain why, but as soon as I’m with an Irish family there’s a sense of comfort about the voices that rise up. Their authenticity seems almost implicit, though I’ve no reason why this should be the case. I’m not sure I could tell quality Irish patter from not. Suffice it to say that what Anna McPartlin gives us here is sparkling, and sparky dialogue that frames her players superbly. If this isn’t what an Irish family sounds like the World is a sadder place than I care to admit. And I’m sure I’ve met a Molly or two in my time – women who’ve lived long enough to always know the right thing to say, though not necessarily the right way to say it, and that everyone swears blind have been like that since birth. Ah, but they’re the people you want on your side and no mistake!

Despite the subject matter’s suggestion, it’s a wonderfully uplifting book. There is love in abundance on its pages, and not a small pinch of worldly wisdom to go with it. Nothing lasts forever, but I guarantee you’ll not forget reading this book in a hurry. It’s a truly beautiful thing. But get tissues. Lots of tissues.

I must say thanks to the Curtis Brown Book Group for sending me this as a welcome gift back in December. They really do have impeccable taste. And one more thing. I actually know someone called Mia Hayes.

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2 Responses to “Van has finished reading…The Last Days Of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin”

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  1. The Inaugural Curtis Brown Book Group – my first six months as a #CBBookGroupie | vanisreading - 01/07/2015

    […] The Last Days Of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin […]

  2. The #CBBookGroupie playlist | vanisreading - 09/02/2016

    […] Theme, The Last Days Of Rabbit Hayes by Anna […]

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