The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

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The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Liz Green
Reviewed by Liz Green
Summary: A haunting, lyrical and loving account of life, loss and moving on. Don't miss it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: March 2015
Publisher: Text Publishing
ISBN: 9781922182012

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Diana Sweeney's The Minnow is an Australian book aimed at Young Adults that features death, grief, abuse, fear and loneliness. Teenage pregnancy lies at its heart while bereavement, and trying to come to terms with loss, bubbles just under the surface, constantly. But don't be misled. This novel isn't some earnest pedagogical attempt to convey teenage angst and elicit grave pity or understanding from the reader. What rescues it from mawkishness is the beautiful voice of the narrator, Tom (or Holly, if you prefer her real name). Tom doesn't fall prey to self-pity. She simply describes her world as she sees it, matter-of-fact. And the fact that her view is rather unusual (she talks to fish, dead people and her unborn child - and they talk back) doesn't really matter. Nothing can detract from the sheer lyricism of her voice. As a reader, you just have to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride.

Tom has lost her immediate family but is very close to her grandmother whose wisdom punctuates the book (Hunger is the best ingredient in any dish). Her grandmother has a special friend, Jonathan, who looks out for Tom. And then there is Tom's GBF, Joshua, who she eventually moves in with. Her relationships with these people, and with the book's more peripheral characters, are loving, positive. And in complete contrast to these is her relationship with the mysterious Bill, the man who took her in when she became homeless, a man who took terrible advantage of her, a man we come to despise on Tom's behalf.

This novel is a cleverly constructed. Twists and turns of time give it a fluidity of movement that you might find irritating if you prefer a linear narrative but, for me, reflected the turns of Tom's mind, the fact that at one moment she might be conversing with her unborn baby (the eponymous Minnow) and the next moment reeling from the impact of the loss of her family.

There is much in The Minnow that provokes thought. I found myself thinking about the nature of death (Tom's lonely Papa wishes a newly-dead woman more luck in the afterlife than he's had). I've thought about friendship ( 'That's the problem with perceptive friends,' says Tom. 'They take no notice of your camouflage' ). And I've thought - many times - about the searing pain of loss: one day, waking from a nightmare, Tom starts to cry. Before the flood, I always felt relieved when I woke from a bad dream. She doesn't say things like this very often, and her avoidance of self-pity gives her occasional indulgences a lot of punch.

I love Tom's voice and I love Tom - how can you not adore a wordsmith heroine who carries a thesaurus around with her? It is haunting, it is sad, it is beautiful, and I love it. Buy two copies - one to keep, one to pass on to your friends.

For more Aussie YA fiction try Margaret Wild's The Vanishing Moment. Adults might appreciate Come Sunday by Isla Morley.

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Buy The Minnow by Diana Sweeney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Minnow by Diana Sweeney at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Minnow by Diana Sweeney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Minnow by Diana Sweeney at


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