Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Land of Decoration - Grace McCleen

Judith is a ten-year-old girl who has embellished her bedroom with all manner of everyday items to transform it into 'The Land of Decoration.' She makes use of whatever she can find, turning ordinary bits and bobs that are essentially rubbish, into people, buildings, landscapes; whatever she imagines, she conjures it up somehow, and this is the place she retreats to. She lives with her father, her mother having passed away, and they have a fairly simple existence. They are fervently religious, regularly attending their meeting house every Sunday, believing that the End is on its way, and taking their message door-to-door. With only her father for company, eventually Judith beings to converse directly with God. One day Judith transforms the land she has created to look as if it has snowed, and wishes for it to snow the next day in the real world. When this actually happens, Judith believes she has performed a miracle, and that further miracles are possible. At school she is bullied for being different, by one boy in particular, and she begins to wonder if she can influence this too, with another miracle thought out in the Land of Decoration. Meanwhile her father has troubles of his own, as a strike at the factory where he works threatens to bring further problems to the family. 

This is a delightfully inventive and unusual story, and I loved Judith’s voice, at times sad, but always honest. There is such an innocence to her at times, yet the fatalistic beliefs that she has grown-up with via her father and their faith give her thoughts a much darker edge too, especially later in the book. Her father evidently also carries a deep sadness, despite his beliefs, and it is moving to see if, and how, their relationship will change. Whilst not intending to compare the two, or suggest they are the same, it reminded me a little of 'Room' by Emma Donoghue, in the way that the child narrator is key to the story. What happens to Judith affects everything, and it's through her insights into the confusing world around her that we experience her world. The chapters are for the most part very short and it's easy to get pulled into Judith's story. I was a little hesitant after reading some reviews and discovering the extent of the religious content, but actually this didn't affect the experience for me. In fact, there is a wonderful passage as she describes how she first hears God respond, and likens it to a long-distance telephone call. This novel may not answer all the questions it asks, and definitely leaves the reader wondering about certain elements of the story. It's a fresh, unconventional debut novel, and I found it an enjoyable, effortless and interesting reading experience. 

Published in the UK by Chatto & Windus on 1st March 2012. Hardcover edition.


  1. This sounds amazing! Very much like my kind of book! I've just pre-ordered this for my Kindle, so excited to read it now! :)

  2. There's a lot of hype for this one, isn't it one of the Waterstone's 11 picks?

    You make it sound very interesting - I do like child narrators when they are done right.

    1. It is one of the Waterstone's 11 picks yes. I found it very interesting, liked it more than I thought I would.

  3. Sounds like a nice read. I enjoyed your review.


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