This is the story of Elizabeth Day. I have pieced it together with my own two hands. I have made it from things I saw and things I did not see but later knew. It is made from the tatters of terrible things and the remnants of wonderful things. I have sewn it together before it fades.
I've picked this up because the back of my ARC has a quote from Mark Zusak that read: "Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you've finished, just to stay near it. The Anatomy of Wings is one of those books."
Convincing, isn't it?
It sure wasn't the cover that attracted me, because this is the actual one that I have:
The story is told by Jennifer Day's. A ten-year-old living in a small town in Queenland (Australia), who's trying to come to terms with her teenage sister's death.
It's her voice that speaks, but as she explains in the quote, a lot of what she tells couldn't have being witnessed by her. This allows the author to being close to Jennifer's world and, at the same time, to follow Beth, her sister, when Jennifer couldn't.
She starts recounting the funeral, and then she goes back to Beth's last months, from the day they went to the lake and Beth fainted, till the day of her death.
But this is not just about Beth. It's also the story of Jenny and her best friend Angela, who are trying to find out why Jenny lost her singing voice, all of a sudden. And it's mainly a story about a family. I wouldn't call it a dysfunctional family at first, but they have their problems. The mother doesn't know how to cope with her teenager growing too fast. The father seems to be the understanding one, but he doesn't do anything to help. Beth is a beautiful, glowing girl who tries to save insects and later her boyfriend. But then becomes growingly distant from everything, as if nothing really mattered, making impossible for her family to understand her. The way her mother reacts to her behaviour reminds me of The Virgin Suicides: repressive and apprehensive. It was painful to read.
Then there's Jenny who collects facts and loves birds more than anything else. Danielle who has to wear braces for the back and is saving money to get a perm. And Nanna, who is overly religious, collects saints figurines, and think that Beth spoke to an angel once.
The best thing about this book is the writing. It was lyrical and delicate. I loved lines like this one:
That winter the nothingness of still days slipped into her, drop by drop.It kind of reminded me of another book called The Year the Gypsies Came by Linzie Glass, which was also about a family struck by a sudden tragedy, also told by the younger sister, and also beautifully written.
I also enjoyed the melancholic short stories about the neighbourhood, which were included in an apparently random way, but which had a subtle connection to the main story, paralleling in a way what was happening to the main characters.
This said, I must admit I didn't feel the same as Zusak at the end. It was sort of anti-climatic for me. There was no big secret to discover, no mystery that was overlooked, no real explanation except the mere recounts of the facts. Young troubled, dissatisfied teen dies. End of story.
I enjoyed the characterisations, the "mood" of the story, some very vivid descriptions of moments or feelings. But I was a bit disappointed at the end. I probably expected something more and it made me rethink about the whole book. It shouldn't have been presented as a story about a girl looking for answers about her sister's death. It simply is a story about a family who falls apart for many reasons, and the equally sad stories of unfulfilled dreams, traumas and losses of their neighbours.
Even though I didn't end up loving this book as much as I hoped, I'd give this author another try. Her writing was definitely worthy.
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