26/03/2007

A Small Part of Me (by Noëlle Harrison)

'A Small Part of Me' is a modern novel by Noëlle Harrison.

Christina is a small girl of nearly seven when her mother leaves, and does not return. She is comforted by Angeline, someone whose presence is rather ambiguous but becomes clearer through the book.

The structure of the book is a little confusing at first, switching as it does between Christina's childhood and her adult life when she herself, separated from her husband, has only limited access to her beloved children. It also changes viewpoint, mainly - in the early part of the book - that of Christina herself and her absent mother Greta. The chapters are short, labelled only with the person whose perspective is being taken for the next few pages; the time-frame for each can only be told from context.

I found 'A Small Part of Me' very readable, the kind of book I kept picking up when I had a few moments free. When Christina embarks on a search across the Atlantic for her long-lost mother, she also begins an internal search for her own identity. There are some moving, bittersweet moments, and a climax to the book which I didn't expect - yet it worked, making room for Christina's growing understanding of who she is, and who she cares about.

It's a gentle book on the whole, character-driven and relationship-centred with strong themes involving motherhood, and the imprint our childhood leaves on our adult lives. Yet there are also underlying deeper themes: of mental illness, and addictions, as well as the pain of being abandoned, and the hurt that often comes from the breakup of the nuclear family.

Definitely recommended, if you like this kind of book.

My slightly longer review of 'A Small Part of Me' is here at the bookbag.

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