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The Land of Decoration [Paperback]

Grace McCleen
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 2012
Judith and her father don't have much - their house is full of dusty relics, reminders of the mother she's never known. But Judith sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith, and where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility. Bullied at school, she finds solace in making a model of the Promised Land - little people made from pipe cleaners, a sliver of moon, luminous stars and a mirror sea - a world of wonder that Judith calls The Land of Decoration. Perhaps, she thinks, if she makes it snow indoors (using shaving foam and cotton wool and cellophane) there will be no school on Monday...Sure enough, when Judith opens her curtains the next day, the world beyond her window has turned white. She has performed her first miracle. And that's when her troubles begin. With its intensely taut storytelling and gorgeous prose, "The Land of Decoration" is a heartbreaking story of good and evil, belief and doubt. Its author, Grace McCleen, is a blazing new talent in contemporary literature.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780701186821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701186821
  • ASIN: 0701186828
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.2 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,231,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"This extraordinary tale of one little girl's End Times grabbed me by the throat. The Land of Decoration is part social observation and part crazy mysticism, held together by a brutally real story of parent-child love." -- Emma Donoghue, Author Of Room

Book Description

Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Betty Trask Prize, The Land of Decoration is blissfully inventive, brilliantly written, with a huge heart, and a tense, pulsing plot - it introduces a young heroine who will change the way you see the world. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and unsettling child narrator tale 28 Feb 2012
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Grace McCleen's debut novel, "The Land of Decoration" paints an original, unsettling, sometimes dark and generally rather wonderful picture. Narrated by ten year old Judith, raised by her father who is a fundamental religious follower of the end of the world is nigh variety, it looks at bullying, both at school and in more general society, faith and the possible rejection thereof and the strength of childhood imagination.

The Land of Decoration of the title is Judith's model society built from bits of rubbish which she imagines as the biblical post-end of the world nirvana where she and her father will again be reunited with her mother. It's intricately modeled including life-like people, and based on their own valley town. Its origin is clearly in the religious views of her father but also represents a safe place that Judith's imagination can run riot, particularly when she is threatened and bullied at school. However, when Judith wishes for snow to cancel school to avoid a promised beating from the class bully by invoking snow in her imaginary world, the unseasonable snow of the following day leads her to believe that she has the power to work miracles.

There are two potential pitfalls here for the unwary debut novelist, both of which McCleen avoids with great style. Firstly there's the issue of a child narrator. Handled badly, this can be nauseating, but Judith's voice is consistently believable retaining charm without becoming overly sentimental. Her struggle to understand the working of the world around her, which is particularly unusual in her case, is moving and realistic.

Secondly, there is the religious content. Her father's faith is of the variety that most of us cross the street to avoid.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Mrs. Fiona Wilton VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Written for the perspective of Judith, a young girl, this novel explores so much about life, the universe and everything. Judith, an only child, and her father live a devoutly religious life which is all encompassing for Judith who creates an imaginary paradise using tiny scraps of rubbish and odd bits of material. The novel quickly becomes quite dark and unsettling as Judith is bullied at school and her detached relationship with her widowed father fractures intensely.
I very quickly became utterly absorbed in this book. The concept worked brilliantly and the finer details add such authenticity and colour to the plot. It's very moving in places and I admit I had to put it down to 'recover' from the intensity - but that is testament to how engulfing this novel is.
There are so many themes and ideas to ponder about this novel and I think it would make a really excellent book group read (in fact it is a Richard and Judy book group novel). At the end of the novel there are some suggested book group questions which is useful as well as an interview with the author. If you liked books such as The Lovely Bones or When God Was a Rabbit then you'll enjoy this too. For other suggestions on books written from a child's perspective then you can look at my Listmania list which may help you; search on Amazon Listmania! for From a Childs Perspective.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original, Powerful, Unforgettable 9 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I could NOT put this book down. I found it original in its idea and extremely well executed. The short chapters kept the reader's interest and the subject matter was powerful, entrenched in the real world and compelling. The fact that this was narrated by a ten year old girl made it even more so.

For the first time in my life, I found myself liking a Richard and Judy recommendation. Grace McCleen gave voice to Judith McPherson in such a way that I could see her standing before me. McCleen captured the naiivity and unworldliness of a child brought up in a strict religious home perfectly. She dealt brilliantly with the subject of bullying and perfectly encapsulated life in a working-class town.

Every character came to life for me, every description of the town placed me right there. The slow unwinding of Mr McPherson was so well done that it left me breathless.

If this is a debut novel, keep writing Ms McCleen. A breath of fresh air in a world increasingly filled with bad novels. I'm off to find more!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different 6 Mar 2013
By tori
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Really enjoyed this - does make you wonder about the dangers of some religions - Judith tells the story well as you can imagine it all through a childs eyes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Innovative story 8 Mar 2013
By Nicola TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Land of Decoration is in the Bible but it's also a mini world made out of rubbish by 10 year old, Judith McPherson. She lives with her father and they are part of a religious organisation, which sounds a bit like Jehovah's Witnesses. One day, after a preacher visits the church, Judith thinks she can make miracles happen by using her model world to act things out.

This is a very accomplished first novel and I think the writer really captures the voice of Judith. I wouldn't say it's the best book I've ever read but it pretty much held my interest throughout. I sympathised with Judith and her father when their lives were troubled, which they are throughout most of the book and there were parts of the book that made me smile. Overall, this is a well-written story with unusual characters and clever dialogue.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet read
A beautiful read. Just the right book for a rainy day with a cup of tea
Published 1 month ago by Dashwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully crafted
They is a section in this book which reminds me why I became a teacher... to ignite even just one flame a year is a wonderful thing. I loved the way this book was written. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Me Andrew P stuart
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly absorbing - from a brilliant new author
Every once in a while a new author appears whose voice is so unique, the writing so brilliant, it sends shivers down the reader's spine. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mirren Jones, Author of 'Eight of Cups'
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
This book was okay, I had to push myself to get through it. I am an avid reader but I felt this was quite dull.
Published 5 months ago by Leanne83
2.0 out of 5 stars All about the book...
Took quite a while to get into this book. Quite a sad story about the power of religion & the impact on an innocent young mind with a very inquisitive & impressionable imagination. Read more
Published 5 months ago by L.C
5.0 out of 5 stars for anyone who has ever been a bit different
Life is tough enough for most kids who are brighter than average, but when you're extra odd because you have no mum, have been raised by a militant Jehovah's Witness of a father,... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Zannie
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking.
What a wonderful book this is. I am sure that it is really a book to be read on several levels though I'm not sure I saw all of them. Read more
Published 6 months ago by traveller
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart wrenching and heart warming. Beautifully written.
I loved this book. The writing is poetic but not showy, the child's voice is brilliantly captured. As others have said this is a book that offers up much for discussion. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Bookness
2.0 out of 5 stars weird but unengaging.
What was this book about?! Hated the ending so much I didn't read it after the first paragraph....left me feeling unfulfilled.
Published 8 months ago by Cheryl
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and sad
Problems for adults and school children told from a child's point of view, Beautifully written with funny and deeply sad descriptions of how the world seems from within her... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Skylark
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