#34 – The Lovely Bones

July 27, 2007

she goes, and now she knows she’ll never be afraid to watch the morning paper blow into a hole where no one can escapeAnother book selected solely because of the upcoming film adaptation; I’m such an illiterate sometimes. Anyway, Peter Jackson’s currently working on The Lovely Bones, and there’s a scarily good cast for it: Rachel Weisz, Ryan Gosling, Stanley Tucci and Susan Sarandon so far. After reading it, I can see how perfect they all are for their characters, and even though this is about as far from Lord of the Rings and King Kong as you can get I’m very excited to see how it turns out.

Oh right, I’m supposed to be talking about books. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, starts out like a punch in the gut: The first lines in the book are “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” In the first chapter, the reader has to watch this girl they’ve just been introduced to get brutally raped and murdered by a neighbour. It’s an incredibly disturbing opening, and by far the most upsetting part of the story. It seems odd to begin a book at the end of the narrator’s life, but as it turns out, The Lovely Bones isn’t about Suzie’s life at all – it’s about the hole in the world that her death leaves behind. Suzie watches from heaven as the lives of her friends and family spin out of control and they try to put themselves back together.

Have you ever watched the show Dead Like Me, to go back to illiteracy for a moment? I really liked the story about a woman who’s recruited to serve as a grim reaper after her death, but it always became completely boring whenever the focus shifted back to her family. The B-story in Dead Like Me was about George’s parents and sister coming to terms with her death and getting on with their lives, and it always felt so slow-paced, and inconsequential, and just pretty obnoxious compared to the main story of the otherwise great show. That’s why I was so impressed when reading The Lovely Bones to find that everything that felt wrong about Dead Like Me works to great effect here. Suzie’s father’s paranoia, her mother’s depression, her sister’s loneliness and her brother’s premature maturity all feel so real, and are so moving, that they never get boring. In fact, it’s so effective that the B-story here, about tracking down Suzie’s killer, might be much more exciting, but it’s nowhere near as interesting as the much quieter main plot.

There are some times, however, where I feel like the hunt for a serial killer should have taken priority over the Quiet Portraits of Life After Death the book focuses on, especially in one section near the end, which I can’t go into for fear of spoiling it. Also, Sebold gives Suzie’s sister a “girl comes of age in the 1970s” plotline which I feel like I’ve seen in a million books and movies, and still find impossible to relate to. These are small nitpicks, though, based only on my particular tastes as a reader. By and large, The Lovely Bones is a sad and poignant story about the effects death has on those left behind, and it’s worth a read.



  1. i have this book on my nightstand waiting to be read. thanks for the review, i am finally going to start it.

  2. Hope you enjoy it, Anglophile, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. After hearing the movie cast, I found it impossible to NOT picture Stanley Tucci as Mr. Harvey the whole time I was reading; see if you feel the same.

  3. I’ve meaning to read this book for years and years and years. First I was waiting until it came out in paperback and when it did I was waiting for…I don’t know, a kick in the butt? Since I didn’t know they’re making a film out of this, maybe I’ll be inspired to read the book before the movie comes out. Great review. You’ve made me feel bad that I still haven’t read this one. That’s a good thing. 🙂

  4. […] David Gold is married to Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones, […]

  5. i REALLY wanna see this movie and read the book. i heard the first chapter is really hard to read because of the rape and murder. my type of book.

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