Billed as a story of the relationship between Elly and her older brother Joe, this book follows the two siblings from 1960s England to the events of 9/11. The first half, set in the late 70s, deals primarily with Elly's friendship with the quirky Jenny Penny and her response to her parents' decision to move to Cornwall and attempt to run a bed and breakfast. There wasn't as much sibling interaction as I was expecting and it ultimately wasn't interesting enough to read the second half of the book, which picks up Elly's story in 1995 and continues into more recent times.
The novel gets off to a very strong start. Elly is a very precocious child and her narrative voice is charming. Winman is a gifted writer, but she has a tendency to be vague. I'm not sure if that was her style or if it was a choice intended to reflect Elly's youth and naivete, but it didn't always work for me. For example, in the early pages of the novel it is revealed that Elly has been molested to some extent by an elderly neighbor. We only know this because Elly mentions to Joe that she knows the differences between circumcised and uncircumcised penises, and then tells us that she never saw the neighbor again. The impact of this event goes virtually ignored. Instead, Elly tells us about the weird behaviors of Jenny Penny. At first, it was funny and entertaining -- Jenny Penny decides to interpret her role as a camel in a nativity play loosely and shows up in an octopus costume that frightens the baby Jesus and leads to a pretty absurd disaster. After a while, though, I just got bored with the whole thing. The excessive quirkiness and the lack of a genuine conflict in need of resolution just weren't enough to hold me in.
Oh! There's a rabbit named god that sometimes speaks to Elly and that leads to some pretty funny wordplay. I loved it at first, but once again wasn't enough to convince me to stick with it.