A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray
|A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An impressive debut delves into the life of a family of Mormons after their youngest child dies. Wonderful characters and excellent writing. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: June 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2014
Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2015
The Bradley family are constantly busy as you might expect when there are four children but their most testing time comes on seven-year-old Jacob's birthday. His elder sister, Zippy and elder brother Alma have other things going on in their lives but his little sister isn't feeling well. Four-year-old Issy has retreated to bed and she's rather hoping that her mother will come and make her better, but Claire is trying to cope with Jacob's birthday party and it's quite a while before the family realise that Issy is very ill. She has meningitis and that night she dies in hospital.
A Song for Issy Bradley is the story of a few months in the lives of the Bradley family as they all try to come to terms with what has happened in their own way. Ian is husband, father, maths teacher - but before everything else he's a Mormon bishop. He's not a bad man - in fact he's doing his best to be good, convinced that if he does, everything will turn out right. But his family have take second place to even the trivial needs of the congregation. And everything is strict. His wife, Claire, is a convert to the Mormon faith - as she's regularly reminded - but after Issy's death she needs time and help to come to terms with what has happened.
Zippy experiences her first love and struggles with the difference between the Mormon way of life and the less-restricted lives of her school friends. Alma retreats into cynicism and pushing the boundaries wherever he can, reluctant to see a path within the faith which he can follow. But it's Jacob who takes shelter in his faith - and his belief in miracles and that Issy can be resurrected. I felt his pain when he realised that for all of his life Issy would be dead.
Carys Bray grew up as a Mormon and the insight into the life is sharp and - for the most part - affectionate, but what is keenly observed is the way that people feel within the faith. Bray married a fellow Mormon when she was twenty and had five children in seven years. One of these children died as a result of an inherited metabolic disease. She knows exactly what she is writing about in this book, but don't let that take anything away from her achievement as this book is so much more than a lightly-fictionalised life story. The writing lifts it far above that - it's clear, accessible and there's not a wasted word.
The characters too are the ones who live on in your mind. Superficially Ian could have come across as uncaring about his family, but Bray delves deeper and the insecurities emerge, the fear of failing which drives him on brought sharply into view. Bray has an obvious empathy with the children too: they're not saints but she captures their way of thinking and their fears. It's an impressive debut and I'll be interested to see how she follows this us. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.
If this book appeals to you then we know that you'll love The Friday Gospels by Jenn Ashworth.
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