It’s that time of year again! Last year at my placement school they had a reading group shadowing The Carnegie Medal Awards, with students encouraged to read the books on the Shortlist and vote for a favourite before the winner was officially announced. It happened towards the end of my teacher training, and although I was able to take part, I was not able to play a significant role in the shadowing programme. This year I am running an after school enrichment shadowing The Carnegie Medal, which I am a little excited about, therefore I thought it a good idea to get started on the Shortlist (for the Shortlist follow this handy little link
And so to the first book…
…Roddy Doyle’s A Greyhound of a Girl. This book was not what I expected, completely reinforcing the whole never judge a book by its cover and I put this down to the blurb.
Mother and daughters heading off on a car journey.
One of them dead,
One of them dying,
One of them driving,
One of them just beginning
In my mind this suggested a car accident of some kind and I expected the narrative to focus on the aftermath of this. How wrong I was?
Mary is 12, on the cusp of becoming a teenager, but not quite there yet. Her best friend has just moved away and her Grandmother, Emer, is dying in hospital. On her way home from school one day Mary meets Tansy, a lady who on first appearance seems to be old, but is actually quite young; it is her clothes that make her seem so much older. Tansy seems to know Mary’s Grandmother, although she doesn’t mention how, only that she has come to let Emer know ‘it will be grand.’
To begin with I wasn’t sure about this book. The main reason, and this just proves that I am an obsessive English teacher, was the over use of punctuation marks whenever Scarlett, Mary’s mum, was talking. This sounds like a ridiculous reason to be uncertain I know, but having marked book after book after book of students who think it is fine to end every sentence with an exclamation mark I do find this somewhat irritating. Luckily for Doyle he soon justifies this overuse:
“What happened to the !!!s?” said Mary.
“The !!!s,” said Mary.
“Oh,” said her mother. “They seem to fall out of me whenever I go into that hospital.”
So I did a slight U-Turn and decided this was a clever way of over emphasising a character’s emotions, perhaps not necessary in an adult’s book, but I imagine it is helpful to those who struggle with reading and inference. Once I had overcome this little niggle, I was able to enjoy the book and the journey it took me on. It gives a great insight into the attitudes of different generations of women within a family and their relationships with one another. I come from a family made up predominantly of women, and this has become more apparent due to various family issues over the past 18 months, so this style of narrative certainly struck a chord with me. It really highlighted the importance of strong relationships between women, especially mothers and daughters, something I was not expecting from a male author, but then shame on me for stereotyping. I liked the ghostly element of the novel, and I can clearly see how superstitions ease the minds of those dealing with difficult situations.
Do I think it is a winner? It is hard to tell having only read the one book from the Shortlist, but I certainly think it is a worthwhile read.