July 2012 Archives

The Weight Of Water

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Sarah Crossan
January 2012
240 pp
Whole book read
Read On? n/a
I come to a verse novel with a hope that it will live up to some of the best writing that has been done in this genre. One of the most powerful Young Adult novels ever written, and an enduring favourite of mine, is Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff. Love That Dog and Heartbeat both by Sharon Creech are two other verse novels that I would recommend without reservation.
I read The Weight of Water on my Kindle, while sittting on the beach in bright sunshine. As with the verse novels just mentioned, I was immediately driven along by the pulse of the short lines. I had downloaded it several months previously and it had been sitting there in my 'Items' list for just this moment.
It is a short book and a quick read, but manages to cover a number of 'issues' without ever becoming the issue novel it might have been had it been written in a conventionally padded prose. The Sunday Times/Nicolette Jones picked it as its Children's Book of the Week. "Succinct, with a gentle lyricism, the poems are telling about immigration, prejudice, self-delusion, families and first love, on the way to a life-changing conclusion."
The main character is Polish. Although not Polish herself (she is Irish) Crossan captures Kasienka's misery well, as she is picked on and made to feel isolated at school, and at home comes into conflict with her mother. Kasienka's courage and developing self-reliance in the face of the bullying for one so young (she is in Year 8) is counterbalanced by an awkwardness and naivety when it comes to having her first kiss.
I would rather have allowed the final verse section, 'Butterfly', to provide closure to the story by itself without the heavy-handedness of putting it into an Epilogue.
And I do very much regret the need to include two paragraphs of Acknowledgements, mentioning amongst others "the Edward Albee Foundation (its founders and fellows) which gave me the space and time to complete this novel." This had the effect on me of somewhat undermining the authenticity of the novel, and rapidly dissipating the satisfaction that you get on finishing a really good read. Perhaps if I had read the book in print format I might simply have closed it after the final verse section and not bothered to read these bothersome Acknowledgements.

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