The Land of Decoration – Grace McCleen

The Land of Decoration


Chatto & Windus

I jumped at the chance of reading and reviewing this when it showed up on a recent Amazon Vine newsletter.   It’s a story of many parts encompassing the frequently fraught relationship between a father and his daughter set against a backdrop of manic religious fervour and the stress of  strike action with a pinch of fantasy thrown in for good measure – a heady mix indeed!

Ten year old Judith McPherson leads a rather isolated life with her widowed father.  Their routine revolves around their strong religious conviction that the End Times are approaching fast but such faith won’t be a match for the bullies at Judith’s school – or will it?  Could  Judith’s model of the Promised Land, the Land of Decoration save her from the brutality of the real world?  Whilst Judith focuses on her own daily struggles, her father is facing his demons too as he defies the union and joins the much hated scabs.  Previously held beliefs and certainties are shaken and torn apart as the McPhersons’ lives hurtle out of control.

There’s no doubt about it, this is an unusual novel.  At first it seems almost childlike in tone, with our young narrator Judith concoting her imaginary Promised Land out of old sweetie wrappers and cotton wool.   However, as the narrative develops, the atmosphere becomes darker and more sinister as Judith becomes more and more convinced of her miraculous powers.  It does get slightly confusing at times, spoiling the reading experience somewhat but I guess this serves to mirror Judith’s own distress and confusion of fantasy and reality

With hints of Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are Not the Only Fruit (the religious extremism bits!),  I found this a challenging, strangely enjoyable read and a promising debut but not quite the miraculous masterpiece the blurb would have you believe.

  • Share/Bookmark


  1. This does sound unique, which makes me want to pick it up. Thanks for the review.

  2. Treez says:

    I enjoyed it Sam but I do wish publishers would refrain from overly gushing blurbs as it can lead to dashed expectations.

  3. Iris says:

    This sounds interesting, though I am sorry to hear it is not a masterpiece. The title would be enough to get me interested, I think. And the cover. Yet, I had not heard of it before.

  4. Treez says:

    The cover is beautiful, Iris. It is a good read and well worth reading. It’s not out until March next year and I only got a copy as I am a member of Amazon Vine.

  5. Fleur Fisher says:

    The concept is wonderful, but maybe the author tried to do a little too much and maybe the advance buzz raised expectations a little too high. I’m still intrigued nonetheless.

  6. admin says:

    It’s an enchanting read and one which I would recommend. I just don’t have lots of 5 star reads!

Leave a Reply