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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, absorbing, so much to ponder and discuss
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...
Published 13 months ago by Mrs. Fiona Wilton

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars well written, however...
This book is extremenly repetitive and rather boring. Hate leaving negative feedback so will admit that it is well written. Also the story is told through he eyes of a child and the author has captured this very well.
Published 13 months ago by Ruth Stewart


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, absorbing, so much to ponder and discuss, 14 Jun 2013
By 
Mrs. Fiona Wilton - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Land of Decoration (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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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and unsettling child narrator tale, 28 Feb 2012
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Land of Decoration (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. They are the fundamentalist type who knock on people's doors to warn of the impending end of the world and encourage us to embrace the Lord. It's uncomfortable to read of the power this has over an impressionable child. While Judith believes that she may be invoking miracles, there is always a reasonable explanation to these events in the real world. There's also great subtlety in the handling of how those from her father's church react to her belief in miracles which hits to the hypocritical views here. So too with her father's changing stance that antagonism to their message is to be embraced until it starts to genuinely threaten his livelihood and family. Judith's imaginary conversations with God may offend some while the ultimate rejection of faith may not be others' tastes.

While the publisher's blurb about the author tells you very little, this is one of the few instances where it's well worth clicking through to the writer's own website. There, you will learn not only that McCleen was herself brought up in a fundamentalist religion and didn't have much contact with non-believers and that she was taken out of school at the age that Judith is in this book, but also that she made intricate and quite beautiful model "little people" as a child some which are shown on the site. Part of the success of this authentic voice then appears to be that she has followed the dictum of "write what you know". I checked this out about half way through reading the book and it gave me goose-bumps.

As another slight aside, it's also notable that this is another beautiful hardback edition. It seems one of the laws of unintended consequences of the e-book revolution is that publishers are making hardbacks in particular more desirable to encourage sales. A small victory for the luddites amongst us.

"The Land of Decoration" is a relatively quick read, with lots of short chapters, and with a real sense of tension in the story's development. Yes, at times its dark and unsettling, but its full of charm and humour too and your heart goes out to Judith who is trying to make sense of her strange and complicated world. Perhaps when she grows up, she will write a book as original as this one is.
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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
By 
I Heart Books "Bookworm" (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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
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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 "nicola_in_southyorks" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Land of Decoration (Hardcover)
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars auto-biographical mis-sold as fiction, 1 Dec 2013
By 
L. James (nr cambridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Land of Decoration (Paperback)
I started off liking this book. The first few chapters were well-written and creative and the style of writing is very readable. However, the more I read the more I felt cheated. I wanted to read a piece of fiction - but the style of the book changed a third of the way in, and to me became an auto-biographical story and the fiction was left behind. Now, if this had been tagged as an auto-biographical story of someone that had grown up in a strict religious sect/community then fair enough - but the more I read, the more I realised that this is two halves of a book that are not entirely compatible - the first half is the fiction to entice you in, and the second half is the auto-biographical book that you would read for a different reason.

Two stars for the first half of the book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different view of the world., 16 Aug 2013
By 
Jo D'Arcy (Portsmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Land of Decoration (Paperback)
What child has not wished for snow so they did not have to go to school the next day?

For Judith that wish comes true. But it is not so she can go and play in it. It is for a much darker reason, she wants to avoid the school bullies who seem to have targeted her.

But the bullying comes away from the school playground and infiltrates right into Judith's life. It affects her home now as well.

You see Judith could be seen to be different. She is not. Her family has chosen to follow a devout religion which does not have celebrations at Christmas or Birthdays, where Armageddon is not far away and those that have sinned will be brought to justice. These are the people who preached door to door and that many of the locals avoid by crossing the street, and hiding when the door knocked.

This brought Judith into isolation with only her father for company at home. Her mother having died having Judith we discover as we read. Judith seeks solace in her own land - one she created and one she could control.

So when she made it snow in her land and then the very next day it snowed in the world she thought she had gained the power to change everything, A voice was even telling her so.

But having power is not always a good thing as Judith finds out. Can she really control the world from her land of sweet wrappers, pipe cleaners, paper and other bits of rubbish?

This is a powerful novel which has stayed with me long after I have read it. The religious aspect was fascinating, the way that this lonely girl was portrayed by the author was at times emotional and others rather challenging. It felt like Judith was trying to be an adult without having first been a child. It was the new teacher at school who seemed to break the restricted and constructed life that Judith was perhaps living, and Judith's bullying ran in parallel to what her father suffered when the strike at the factory started; it was bullying but in a different form for him. The ending was very different for both of them.

It is a well constructed novel, the short chapters kept me focused on what was going on and there was never a time where you had to take stock of where you had got to and revisit something you had just read. It never actually mentions the religion that Judith and her father are part of. It never mentions the location they are living in. The work that went on in the local factory before the strike. It has just suggestions of everything, leaving the reader to choose exactly, who, what when, where and why. A very clever twist to this novel that I think is the main reason it has stayed with me.

Upon reflection this is a novel which is unusual, it does not tie up all the loose ends, which some may want from a novel and it perhaps raises more questions than give answers to. If you like a neat ending, then perhaps this is not the book for you. If you want something different, told in the voice of a child then perhaps tackle this novel and see how you feel once you have read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A haunting tale of hide...and seek., 26 July 2013
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Land of Decoration (Paperback)
Ten-year old Judith is being brought up by her forbidding father, a strict member of an un-named religious sect believing in Armageddon. Judith, who is being horribly bullied at school, hides in her room building her own 'Land of Decoration' (from a biblical quote meaning 'the land of milk and honey') from little scraps of reclaimed rubbish. There in her room, she also believes she hears the voice of her god speaking to her and she seeks his advice about dealing with the school bully. This leads to some not-so-divine retribution.

This story is told in Judith's entirely believable voice. The chapter "My Perfect Day" must be one of the most poignant I have ever read. Not that this story is relentlessly sad; when Judith's class get a new substitute teacher, the wonderful and sensible Mrs Pierce, I could have hugged her! Beautifully written in unflashy, unfussy prose, this is a touching read by début author, Grace McCleen. I do believe it will prove to be a memorable one too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars well written, however..., 7 Jun 2013
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This book is extremenly repetitive and rather boring. Hate leaving negative feedback so will admit that it is well written. Also the story is told through he eyes of a child and the author has captured this very well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very intimate account of a little girl's world, 24 Mar 2013
It's a little girls world and her battle with bullying. Nice, but hardly a masterpiece of literature. It's void on any transcendent value. If the author had gone deeply into what was the beginning of a case of squizophrenia would have made a more interesting reading.
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The Land of Decoration
The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (Paperback - 3 Jan 2013)
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