Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Book #2 Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You is the story of Lydia Lee who is already dead when the novel begins, though her family don't know that yet. It initially appears to be heading into the territory occupied by The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, but instead becomes a very different kind of story unique unto itself.

I felt that the story was the embodiment of the famous Philip Larkin poem 'This Be The Verse'. The more we learn about the lives of the Lees, the more we see how their entire dysfunction has been created by the emotional baggage both parents have carried through from their own childhoods, which then accidentally dictates their interactions with their own children. Or more specifically, Lydia.

James is Chinese and his wife Marilyn is All American. The children and the couple themselves face the kind of prejudice as a mixed race family one would expect from small town 1970's USA.

Though they have three children, all the hopes of both parents have fallen upon their middle child, Marilyn's by design and James's by accident and they each want for her everything they feel they failed to have. A parenting mistake that is never rectified has led older son Nath to be overshadowed, and unplanned youngest child Hannah is almost deliberately ignored.   

Though it begins as a novel about her, there is some great writing which shows that if anything as the novel progresses Lydia becomes more and more a ghost, less and less knowable and as a result the situation becomes so much more tragic, in many senses as realistically forgotten whilst living as either of her siblings.

It also manages to cleverly subvert a couple of story cliches I think, the dead girl in a small town cliche generally, and 'the Clever Asian Kid' cliche.

It is mournful and it has this pervading sadness without being depressing,  People think of love as a tremendously positive thing, and neither parent is a bad or evil person, but loving in the way they think of as loving.  It is almost an elegy to the harm we can do we with love. And this is what makes it noteworthy and this is what it makes it haunting, as a family filled with silent despair finally implodes.    


2015 Challenge :A book you can finish in a day.

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