27/01/2009

Sweets from Morocco (by Jo Verity)

I'd never heard of Jo Verity. Apparently she's a Welsh author who started writing after she retired. She won a short story award, and shortly afterwards had her first novel published.

I was sent 'Sweets from Morocco' by The Bookbag for reviewing, and have been reading it for the past few days. It's not the kind of book that makes me stay up all night, or ignore chores and other things I need to do around the house. But it was a very pleasant read for the evenings, and odd moments through the day.

It's about a sister and brother, Tessa and Lewis, who are pretty close. Early in the book a family tragedy happens, and their lives are changed forever. Tessa becomes more irresponsible during her teenage years, while Lewis behaves impeccably.

The book follows their lives over several decades, beginning in 1954 when Tessa is ten, and ending in 2005. After the first six chapters, we leap forward eight years and then see her in the throes of A-levels. This device works well through the book.

It's character-based, and I found both Tessa and Lewis believable. Their relatives are rather less well developed, but that didn't matter. We see them through the eyes of their offspring, after all. There are a couple of fascinating elderly characters early in the book, who give the children 'sweets from Morocco' when they visit, and also give them a glimpse into a life rather different from their own.

I found the book thought-provoking - one that will remain with me for some time, I suspect. It made me think about the effects of a family tragedy on people of different temperaments; it also reminded me how important it is to talk to children about difficult issues, rather than assume they don't understand.

Recommended.

You can also read my longer review of Sweets from Morocco on the Bookbag site.

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