Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Lovely Bones: Alice Sebold

When The Lovely Bones first hit bookstores a few years ago, I was curious about it, but ultimately decided to skip it. As a general rule I don’t go in for a lot of gore, so reading about the rape and murder of a teenage girl wasn’t the least bit appealing. However, in my spare time I’m also a movie buff. So when I saw that The Lovely Bones was going to be made into a movie (with Stanley Tucci!), I bit the bullet and ordered myself a copy. My overall opinion is that I wasn’t missing much by not reading it.

The Lovely Bones is disturbing and gory. Which are actually testaments to the great writing of Alice Sebold. I’m just not sure it’s a great book. The story was sometimes uncomfortable to read. And rather than be about the search for Susie Salmon’s killer, it’s about what happens to a family and community after the death of a young girl, which was only interesting for about a hundred pages. The family reaction was fairly cliché—the parents grow distanced when one of them becomes obsessed with finding Susie’s killer. Her siblings fall into the shadows as the sad survivors of a family torn apart by the loss of a child. And Susie’s friends from school react by finding solace in each other, which feels a little uncomfortable in itself.

I think that what makes this story silver-screen-worthy is that it’s believable. We have become all-too-familiar with the reality of the neighborhood sociopath who preys on our children. What Sebold has managed is to make Susie’s killer dimensional. He is cold and calculating, but she gives him thought processes and determined decisions that effectively bring him to life. If it weren’t for Sebold’s writing skill, I don’t think this book would have made it beyond the thrillers section into the best-selling shelves it stands on today.

Rating: $$


  1. I haven't read the book, but found this review fascinating after all the kudos I've heard about it. Another friend of mine echoed your thoughts. Still, it sounds better than the movie, which really suffered from a split personality - thriller about a killer or story about a grieving family? Your review makes me realize that the book is probably very hard to adapt.

  2. I am really curious to see the movie now, because historically, Hollywood likes to amp things up. How do you amp up a book that has very (VERY) little action? So I'm curious if it's going to be a Drama about the grief, or a Thriller about the killer? I'm not sure I would have immediately thought "Ooh, this would make a great movie!" if I hadn't already known it was being made.

  3. Couldn't agree more about the book. I've decided to skip the movie, though, Hollywood never really does justice to first person narration in fiction. After The Lovely Bones, I read Fall on your Knees, by Anne-Marie MacDonald... Highly recommended.

  4. Fall On Your Knees. Highly recommended, huh? I'll have to go look into it! Thanks for the tip, Sabina!

  5. I am so happy to find that I was not the only person disappointed in "The Lovely Bones". I had no intention of reading the book or seeing the movie, but I read the first couple of chapters and was intrigued by Siebold's writing technique...that technique was not, in my opinion, however, enough to make the the book "all that". I found the ending incredibly disappointing - almost like she got tired of writing or realized "oh, it's getting too long, I need to wrap this up". I'm sorry I paid full price, and I can only thing of one person to whom I would recommend the book. Still don't know if I want to see the movie.