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Mourning Ruby [Kindle Edition]

Helen Dunmore
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Mourning Ruby explores identity and maternal ties and is bestselling author Helen Dunmore's eighth novel.

Rebecca was abandoned by her mother in a shoebox in the backyard of an Italian restaurant when she was two days old. Her life begins without history, in the dark outdoors. Who is she, where has she come from and what can she become? Thirty years later, married to Adam, she gives birth to Ruby, and to a new life for herself. But when sudden tragedy changed the course of that life for ever, and all the lives that touch hers, Rebecca is out in the world again, searching . . .

'Moments that bring the reader to tears . . . a fascinating - often brilliant - novel' The Times

'Bold and unusual . . . miraculously written, Dunmore's drama of loss and regeneration pieces together shattered lives' Daily Mail

'Emotionally restrained, beautifully observed' Daily Telegraph

Helen Dunmore has published eleven novels with Penguin: Zennor in Darkness , which won the McKitterick Prize; Burning Bright; A Spell of Winter, which won the Orange Prize; Talking to the Dead ; Your Blue-Eyed Boy; With Your Crooked Heart; The Siege, which was shortlisted for the 2001 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award and for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2002; Mourning Ruby; House of Orphan; Counting the Stars and The Betrayal, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010. She is also a poet, children's novelist and short-story writer.

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Described on its jacket as resembling "a Russian Doll", Helen Dunmore's Mourning Ruby is certainly more of an assemblage of interconnected tales than a full novel. It's a work that plays the old "stories within stories" game; there are quotes from poems (Mandelstam, Byron, Dickinson and some of Dunmore's own pieces) and folk songs and nearly the last third of the book is given over to shards of a novel in progress written by one of the characters. As in Talking to the Dead and With Your Crooked Heart, the main protagonists here--Rebecca, her husband Adam, and Joe, her old flatmate, a Stalin-obsessed writer--form another of Dunmore's intriguing sexual/sibling triangles.

As the title confirms though, it's the death of Rebecca and Adam's child, Ruby, in a road accident that dominates. In the depiction of this horrific incident, Dunmore at one point breaks into verse, crystallising in just a few sparse, stream of consciousness lines Rebecca's agony as, impotently, she watches the tragedy unfold: "She always stops at roads, she's never run into a road, but look how fast she's going Adam, she's too far ahead, the gap between them, stop Ruby, stop Ruby, stop Rubystop."

Rebecca's loss is even greater because she is herself a lost child, a foundling who was abandoned in a shoebox outside an Italian restaurant. But, if this is a book about the many permutations of loss, it is equally about creativity, artistic as well as biological. Through Rebecca's encounters with her boss, Mr Damiano, the former circus impresario turned hotelier, and Joe's "story", Dunmore salutes, through the very medium of fiction itself, the healing power of the imagination. --Travis Elborough


Intensely emotional, fiercely intelligent. ("Publishers Weekly," starred review) Gorgeous...powerful...nuanced, extraordinary. ("Detroit Free-Press") A must-read. ("Harper's Bazaar")

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1803 KB
  • Print Length: 300 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0399151486
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (27 May 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9GYY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #81,072 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Her Best 19 Feb. 2005
By A Customer
Sometimes I love Helen Dunmore, especially Burning Bright, but I must say this isn't one of those times. Parts of it are wonderful, especially those concerning her boss Mr. Damiano. But the character of her friend Joe drags it down. He never becomes more than an artistic convention and the "book within a book," his novella, was, well, cringemakingly awful. If it had been at the beginning rather than the end of the book, I doubt if I'd have read the entire book.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking .... 11 Feb. 2004
The structure of this wonderful book is complex, but Dunmore's poetic prose flows so gracefully across the pages, that it quite simply takes you by the hand and leads you gently but surely through its rich layers of stories within stories within stories without putting a step wrong.
The main story is about a mother (herself an abandoned child) and father trying to deal with the death of their young daughter. The awful moment when Ruby races from one parent to another into the path of an oncoming car is heartstopping in its shocking finality. It reminded me of the equally shocking moment in Ian McKewn's 'A Child In Time', when a father, out shopping, suddenly realises that his child has disappeared. In both cases the reader is overwhelmed by the absence of this small person whose energy spilled onto the page only a moment ago, but now is gone. As that absence fills their lives, so it spreads its influence across the whole book and its cast of characters both 'real' and fictional - and while the layering of stories means that there are a large number of characters (and voices) in this book, I felt that I knew and cared for even the most minor of them.
Mourning Ruby is beautifully crafted and takes the reader on an emotional and searching journey. Although it is laced with grief it is also about hopes and dreams. This book is not, in the end, about death, its about the joy and pain of living.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Startlingly beautiful 30 Dec. 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Helen Dunmore never fails to amaze with her unique skill of creating poetry out of prose - "Mourning Ruby" is one of the best books I have read all year, and there have been many!
There are several stories running through one main tale: that of a mother and father mourning their dead child. But theirs is not the only tale of loss and grief. Dunmore manages to make even the most minor of characters live and breathe, and the ending, surprisingly, is uplifting and positive; something you don't expect throughout the book. Read it once for the enjoyment of the story, then go back again and revel in the words, strung together like gems on a necklace.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By James
This is a novel about identity, memory, and bereavement. Its central character, Rebecca, was abandoned as a new-born baby. She is haunted by knowing nothing about her parents or her family ancestors; as a result she feels that she lacks a personal identity. As an adult she tries to forge such an identity, first with her friend and flatmate Joe and then through the family life that she creates with her husband Adam and their daughter Ruby. But then tragedy strikes: Ruby is killed in a car accident, and Rebecca is so overwhelmed with grief that she leaves Adam and tries to lose herself in work.

Some of the writing in this novel is very powerful, especially that dealing with Ruby's death and with Rebecca's desperate efforts to preserve her memory. The novel is also in part skilfully organised. For example, there is a sub-plot concerning Rebecca's employer Mr Damiano, whose past life has had its own share of identity problems and personal tragedy. This part of the book is cleverly done: as Mr Damiano recounts his past life to Rebecca, it echoes the way in which Dunmore has recounted Rebecca's past to us, the readers.

So far, so good. Unfortunately I found other aspects of this book less satisfactory. The main difficulty concerns Joe's role. For much of the time he is trying to write a book about Stalin, and significant chunks of Dunmore's book focus on this work, and on his life in Moscow. I couldn't see the point of this at all: it just seemed like a distraction from the core of the story. Worse still, towards the end of Dunmore's novel she has Joe abandon the Stalin project and instead start writing a novel about world war one. A sizeable chunk of the final third of Dunmore's book is an edited extract from this novel. Why?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Depressing 24 Mar. 2012
By Bunty
This is my first Helen Dunmore and I have to say it will be my last. I can't recall a more depressing and dull book.
OK, so the subject matter - a couple trying to come to terms with the death of their daughter - is hardly cheery, but this disjointed and futile novel seems to be neither redemptive or rewarding.

The story doesn't know what it wants to be - a mystery - who were Rebecca's parents? A love story? If so, why is her relationship with her friend more interesting than that of her husband? A historic biography - Stalin's wife? An offshoot story of a struggling circus family? A novel within a novel - a hamfisted attempt at cross between First Light and Birdsong?

If only Dunmore had decided what she wanted to write about, and fleshed any of these stories, she may have written something with some substance. As it is, it reads like an author's plot notebook for future novels.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A good story lost
There was a really good book in there somewhere, but it got lost. There were too many barely related storylines and random topics pulling in odd directions. Read more
Published 23 days ago by @JanEllis_writer
2.0 out of 5 stars What on earth happened here?
I have always loved departures and arrivals – even in reading, so I decided to span Helen Dunmore’s career, starting with her first novel 'Zennor in Darkness'. Read more
Published 2 months ago by SH
3.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and confusing.
An experimental novel that plays with the lost stories of two people offering possibilities, imagined, false, constructed against the one reality of a beloved child's death. Read more
Published 7 months ago by susan anne wood
3.0 out of 5 stars The recipient liked it.
Given as a present. The recipient liked it.
Published 9 months ago by NiftyatFifty
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable
Enjoyed it but found it quite disjointed and felt the ending was a little lacking in the same depth of detail as the rest of the book.
Published 10 months ago by DorsetMum
3.0 out of 5 stars Bit disappointed
I was a bit disappointed with the storyline in this novel. I've read quite of Helen Dunmore's novels, this wasn't among my favourites.
Published 17 months ago by Jane B
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rich Patchwork of Stories
I'm a major Helen Dunmore fan, and this beautiful, subtle and thoughtful novel is one of my favourites. Read more
Published on 30 Jan. 2013 by Kate Hopkins
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Dunmore's best but still beautifully written
Dunmore certainly adds dark or disturbing elements to her novels and perhaps this why I enjoy her novels so much. Read more
Published on 30 Nov. 2011 by J. Willis
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre
Ruby, the only child of Rebecca and Adam, has been dead for several years. Adam is a neonatologist who works with dying babies, and despite living with Rebecca seems estranged from... Read more
Published on 12 May 2009 by Captain Pugwash
4.0 out of 5 stars Without Roots.
Helen Dunmore is a fine writer who draws deeply on that sense of isolation that many of us feel from time to time. Read more
Published on 14 Dec. 2006 by Lisa Fuller
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