My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece – Annabel Pitcher

It’s been a while since the mere title of a book has been enough to whet my literary appetite and to entice me into further investigation.  Such was the case with My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, the debut novel of 28 year old Annabel Pitcher, a former secondary school teacher of English.   So is it a case of “what’s in a name..” or is there plenty of substance to back up this beguiling title..

Well, I can happily report that what lies beneath is a meaty, insightful, beautifully written account of family life today.  The voice of the narrator, 10 year old Jamie Matthews, is spot on – in him I can see the idiosyncrasies and hopes and dreams of my own 10 yr old son and his friends.  Jamie hasn’t had an easy time lately, ever since his sister Rose died, five years before, his family has gone into meltdown, escalating in his Mum leaving and his alcoholic Dad deciding to up sticks and move the family including Rose’s twin sister, Jasmine, from London to an isolated, rural area in the Lake District.  Jamie is a stoical figure, often wishing life were better but he holds onto the idea that his Mum will come back to them and that his parents will be able to move on after Rose’s death and that life can get back to normal again.  Not that he even remembers Rose that much but he knows not to say this aloud as his Dad tiptoes around the big issues, preserving Rose’s memories in boxes marked “Sacred” and keeping her ashes in an urn on the mantelpiece. 

This is a corker of a children’s/YA novel as it examines grief and how it can tear families apart, it shows how hard it is to remain loyal to your family, in this case, your Dad when he is so focussed on his own grief and blind to the needs of his remaining living family.  Jamie has never really had friends other than Luke Branston who was is friend for four days…  However, things look hopeful when he makes friends with Sunya, who becomes a superhero counterpart, Girl M to his Spiderman.  They’re both outsiders, alienated by their fellow class-mates and one would hope that their friendship could be a refuge from the maelstrom that is Jamie’s family life.

This novel will make you laugh and cry – Jamie is one of the most credible child narrators I have ever encountered and you feel drawn right into his world, warts and all.  It’s suitable for age 10+ but I think it will attract a large readership across all ages, if only to make you see life through a child’s eyes again.  Sometimes whenever a book gets so much early publicity, I tend to avoid it, fearing disappointment, but, for this novel, the buzz is justified.  I would say “hasten thee to the nearest bookshop” but it isn’t published until 1st March – believe me the wait will be well worth it!

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by apitcherauthor and Teresa Majury, Teresa Majury. Teresa Majury said: @ninadouglas @greg_j_eden link to my review of the wonderful My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece [...]

  2. Violet says:

    Well, you do make this sound interesting! I’m a bit of a sucker for child narrators, especially the outsider type. I can relate to once having had a friend for four days. :) I will have to keep an eye out for this. Sounds as though the author uses a deft touch to tackle some big issues. The death of child so often does tear a family apart.

  3. admin says:

    Violet, it is a cracker of a book. The author has a real knack of capturing the child’s voice and family dynamics.

  4. Rosemary says:

    Teresa, did you know your review is quoted inside the back cover of the paperback edition? You must be getting to be very well known :-)

  5. admin says:

    I didn’t know that, Rosemary, thank you for letting me know! I’m very flattered indeed. :-)

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