The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

24th May 2010

The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold

Hollywood director Peter Jackson has developed a bit of a pattern of taking bestselling, slightly dark books, and adapting them for the big screen. After all, if it worked in the fiction charts, that success must transfer to Hollywood too, right? Apparently not.

His latest adaptation, The Lovely Bones, hit cinemas in January to mixed reviews. The novel by Alice Sebold sold over a million copies, and yet the movie adaptation fell short. Has Jackson finally bitten off more than he could chew?

The Lovely Bones tells the story of a teenage girl who is raped and murdered by her creepy neighbour. The majority of the story focuses on the girl, Susie,  watching her family and friends from heaven as they carry on their lives after her death.

So we’re not looking at a nice little romcom of a book here. But Sebold tells the story with such beauty and attention to detail that you can’t fail to be gripped by the storyline. Her description of heaven manages to straddle the line between dreamy and schmaltzy. The murder mystery that drives the first half of the book is both upsetting and thought-provoking, and the eventual fallout for Susie’s family is heartbreaking. However, the real strength of this book lies in the determination of Susie’s father to find her killer, which borders on obsession at times. This obsession leads you to root for his character to discover the real truth, in the hope that it will allow the family to finally mourn.

Sebold also has a strong talent for building tension. As the reader has the advantage of knowing more than the characters, you spend a large part of the second section on the edge of your seat as they get closer and closer to the truth, whilst also endangering their own lives.

In conclusion, The Lovely Bones is a must-read for anyone who wants something more challenging than the usual chicklit selection. The friendships Susie builds in the afterlife add a bittersweet touch to a harrowing story, and it illustrates the rarely spoken about fallout after the death of a child.

You can buy it for the slightly strange price of £4.18, from Amazon.

Post by Emma Cossey


  • Alexandra Sheppard says:

    I was a bit disappointed with how bored I was by the end of The Lovely Bones. But I think that’s because I expected it to be grittier and more of a thriller.

    Just too schmaltzy for me! And it’s quite a feat to turn a story that starts with the rape and murder of a 14 year-old girl (in the first person, no less) into something a bit drippy.

  • Jane Bradley says:

    I remember sobbing my eyes out when reading it, but I agree the end is a bit too schmaltzy for even my sentimental tastes! But it gets points for being such an original idea, and for the way Sebold maintains the tension and emotions.

    Have you read any of her other books? I never have, but the others didn’t seem to capture public imagination as much as The Lovely Bones, which make me suspect that the hardcore subject matter had a lot to do with its popularity. (The public are ghouls…)

  • Emma says:

    Yeah I agree on the ending, the first half of the book is definitely the more interesting bit. I guess once the mystery is revealed, it’s tough to match it.

    Jane, I haven’t read any of her other books but I’d be tempted to pick on up just to see how they compare! You’re probably right about the hardcore subject matter, I wonder whether the fact that it reflects some of the recent child murders in the last decade might have something to do with it too.

    • Jane Bradley says:

      I reckon you’re right. She’s a talented author, but I think in a way she was lucky because she tapped into a time when everyone was very aware of those high-profile crimes, and with the media frenzy around them, people were always going to be fascinated by such a voyeuristic account of the impact on the victim’s family.

  • Alec Johnson says:

    Also in the faintly disappointed camp, I have to say, and I’ll nod along with the wise opinions above about there being a strong start that descended to a rather naff end. Found myself slightly bored by the drippy heaven sections, too!

    Definitely pleasing writing, though, and the earth-bound bits focusing on the family were convincing and powerful, particularly with the unusual narrative perspective, which was an ace conceit (ending aside, although I suppose some kind of link between life and afterlife was necessary to round the story off neatly).