10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2011
I started this book last night. I woke up at 4.30 and went downstairs to keep reading. I didn't go shopping. I didn't feed my children. I didn't really speak till I finished it this afternoon. When I closed the book I just thought "Loved it."
Moving, lyrical, it regularly had me in tears. I thought the author handled someone who might have seemed an unsympathetic central character brilliantly till she became someone I was just rooting for in both dimensions. Beautiful writing. A journey of faith. I'm buying this book for friends - it's a great read. Moreover it teaches you something, it teaches you not to judge people by their actions because God knows what they've been through and God knows who they might yet be.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Margot is our main character and we quickly are introduced to her untimely death at the young age of 40 years old. We move with her as she is sent back to earth to realise and re live her life all over again from her birth until her death with all the flaws, mistakes and wrong doings which her life included.
While she has been sent to re live her life, she is her own Guardian Angel, but while most Guardian Angels are there to help, she can not change one single thing or undo any of her actions. She must learn the lessons from all of her mistakes and record them through her wings, which is a beautifully original idea that Cooke has come up with, not to mention the powerfully moving passages of some of the experiences Margot has had in her not so easy life. We witness them for the first time as Margot is re living them and they are deeply moving and emotional, leaving you empathising and understanding why Margot is like she is.
While understanding why she is like she is and has done some of the things she has, both Margot and the reader are placed into seeing the consequences of those actions in the form of her left behind teenage son who has begun to wander into the path of trouble. With no one seemingly around to help him, Margot, having come to this realisation, comes to the conclusion that she is going to do something to help him. While she can not change the past, it is clear that she can possibly change the future and so she goes off to seek a deal in Hell in the hopes of righting her son's life and changing his fate. Margot goes out of her way to do so with some heartbreakingly sad and devastating consequences and decisions which help to culminate in a powerful ending.
A beautifully powerful and captivating read which has an incredibly believable lead character and who you completely empathise with, while not agreeing with all of the actions she took in her life, we are all human and learn from our mistakes. While it is clear that Margots death means she didn't learn in enough time to save herself, she learns in time to try to save her son. While not a completely original type of story, Cooke manages to make it so. Her originally in elements throughout the story and her pacy, beautiful and captivating writing make the book so easy to read while pulling out the emotions within you which make you empathise Margot all at the same time.
Outstanding, moving, beautifully captivating and heartbreaking in-twined throughout the book all at the same time, definitely not one to be missed.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 3 May 2011
I was totally gripped by this book, and read it in a single day despite having many other things to do. The early chapters, a harrowing account of an abusive childhood, are not for the faint-hearted, but they are superbly written and the characters spring off the page. After that, things decline somewhat; the narrative becomes repetitive and occasionally lapses into melodrama. However, it's still a compelling account of Margot's battles with addiction as the trauma of her early years continues to affect her actions.
The philosophical and moral dilemmas raised by time travel and the possibility of influencing the outcome of human decisions have been recently explored in "The Time Traveller's Wife" and "Doctor Who", but to return a central character to her personal timeline is an intriguing new twist. The author builds up a deeply-felt and persuasive moral universe where angels and demons are constantly at war with one another. She also writes sensitively about the way it would feel to watch your own history unfold and have limited power to influence it, other than to offer comfort and support. In the end, we are responsible for our own decisions and the role of the guardian angel is to protect from damaging influences. This story will challenge you to think deeply about the wish most of us have had, at some point or other, that we could go back in time and communicate with our younger and more foolish selves.
It was the early chapters, and their account of Margot's childhood, that burned themselves into my memory. Do not be deceived by the word "Angel" on the cover; this is one of the most painful stories of innocence betrayed that you'll ever read. But the message is one of redemption and hope. It isn't perfectly written by any means. I found the account of Margot's earthly death curiously unconvincing and I began to feel that the series of tragic events heaped on her head became excessive and unconvincing, even allowing for her difficult early years. But even with its flaws, it's a deeply felt and powerfully poetic narrative.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2011
WOW! This incredible book had me wrestling my innermost emotions all the way through!
The beautifully designed purple and gold sparkly cover (those of you know me, know that this is the perfect combination for me!) drew me in immediately to start this fascinating story.
At one point, I wanted to put it down and not read any more as I found certain parts of it really distressing. On the other hand, I desperately needed to find out what was going to happen to these amazing characters in this book.
At 40 years old, Margot Delacroix dies and is sent back to earth as her own Guardian Angel! She has to re-experience her life along with all her mistakes and regrets and record it all through her wings. She is told that she cannot change any of her actions, but must use them to learn lessons. She herself had a really tough life and some of the experiences she has been through, are so dreadfully sad and traumatic that you physically feel her pain and want to leap to her defence!
She relives her own life and memories from birth and some things which she couldn't even remember happening and when her teenage son gets into serious trouble she realises that its her actions and behaviour that have turned him into the troublesome boy he has become. She tries her hardest to put this right and tries to save him from his fate with stunning consequences and heartbreaking decisions along the way.
A tough book to summarize without giving a lot of the plot away, but it was a mesmerising, fascinating story. A Mother's love for her son is the most amazing thing and to feel her emotions the way that Carolyn describes them in this book, was just unbelievable for me. Losing my own Mom a few years ago, made the experiences in this story made it all the more personal and heartwrenching for me and I will openly admit to sobbing my heart out for the last part of the book.
The Guardian Angel's Journal makes you question your belief in both life after death and angels and even demons. I know I do, but for those sceptics out there, I think it would certainly be putting questions into your mind too. For those people who have ever loved and lost someone, this book can give you an insight into what your loved one might be doing right now!
A fantastic read, delving deep into your most innermost and private feelings. I certainly hope that most of the distressing encounters that she writes about in this book are not from experience! Carolyn is a truly outstanding writer, and has won numerous awards for poetry and I seriously can't wait for her next novel to come out.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 April 2012
The hype says Jess-Cooke is the new Audrey Niffenegger, but good though this is, it's not nearly as complex or hard-hitting as The Time Traveler's Wife. That said, I found it beautifully written and genuinely original in parts. Unlike other reviewers, I had no problem with Margot (aka Ruth) being her own guardian angel. This is another realm where time is not the linear thing that humans perceive it to be. However, I did think that Ruth was so unlike Margot that I sometimes had trouble 'feeling' that they were the same person despite knowing they were supposed to be so. I liked the fact that Margot is so flawed and yet remains our heroine. I also liked the other characters - especially poor Toby, the fey and rather drippy husband. I wish the author hadn't called the son Theo though - I kept getting the pair of them mixed up. The only slightly weak link for me was the overly narrated ending. I'm always wary of stories that end with one of the characters (in this case Nan), needing to explain what happened. Her summing up reminded me of those awful epilogues to American TV series. There should always be more 'show' and less 'tell'. Overall though, I looked forward to picking this book up every evening, and was sorry to finish it. I'll look out for more by Jess-Cooke.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
'When I died I became a guardian angel'. So begin the story of Margot Delacroix, reincarnated as the angel Ruth bound to watch over her own life. She helps the infant Margot into the world from her dying mother's womb, overdosed from heroin. She watches as Margot suffers years of terrible abuse punctured before finding a happier home, fighting the demons who threaten the life of her and those who would care for her. But she tries to protect Margot from making the decisions she made in her life, the unravelling of her marriage and the incarceration of her son for murder, she has difficult lessons to learn.
Jess-Cooke's vision is interesting, of a world in which every one of us has a guardian angel watching over us, that at times we can hear and be guided by if only we will listen, and of demons who guide us down the easy path to self destruction and terrible actions. At times not as well written as it could be, but a compelling plot and interesting idea. A good read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2011
I was completely gripped as soon as I read the first page..I was taking my Kindle everywhere, even to the gym! Such a beautiful and heartbreaking story, an innocent child thrown to the clutches of abusers, I truly hope I have a guardian angel as wonderful and protective as Margot had. A sad story that left me with a lump in my throat. Excellent book - worthy comparison as "The new Audrey Niffenger" Company Magazine
When Margot dies at the age of 40 she is sent back to earth as her own guardian angel. Now known as Ruth, it is her job to witness and record the biggest events in Margot's life, she must try to protect Margot from outside forces and she must learn to love herself. As she watches over herself and her family she comes to realise that she is responsible for the trouble that her son now finds herself in but she has been told she must change nothing. But is there a way that she can make things better for either herself or her son?
When I first read the description for The Guardian Angel's Journal I was fascinated by the idea of becoming your own guardian angel. I'm sure the idea of going back and changing certain events and decisions we made in the past has a certain appeal to most of us, after all I think everyone can think of at least a few things they would like to change about their past! For Ruth it is particularly difficult, as Margot she suffered horrendous abuse but even though she must watch these events unfold she is powerless to prevent them from happening. She tries her hardest to make small changes but often her suggestions only make things worse.
It is easy for Ruth to love Margot as a child, after all she is suffering through no fault of her own, but as she watches the decisions Margot makes as an adult she finds it harder to forgive her mistakes. Ruth must learn to accept that her childhood was to blame for a lot of her choices as an adult and it is hard for her to come to terms with the damage she then causes to her son and the rest of her family. As a reader it could have been hard not to feel unsympathetic towards Margot as she passes on her suffering to a new generation but Carolyn Jess-Cooke did a fantastic job of making me relate to her and understand what she had been through. The story is thought provoking and gives an interesting insight to how your past can effect your present in ways you don't always notice without the benefit of hindsight.
The Guardian Angel's Journal is a beautiful story that kept me up until 5am because I couldn't stop reading. It is very different from anything that I've read before but something I would highly recommend. It is hard to believe that this is a debut novel and I'm very much looking forward to seeing what the author comes up with next.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I took this book to read on holiday and thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is interesting, especially if you are into guardian angels etcs. I also liked the questions at the end for reading groups, the author's biography, and the interview with her where she explains how she became a writer, how the idea of this book came to her, the research she did (yes she did read books about real people having experiences with guardian angels). For a first novel, this book is impressive and I will not be surprised if she bags a movie based on her novel in the future.
The concept behind this book absolutely gripped me - the story, written from a guardian angel's point of view, is fascinating, uplifting, thought-provoking and life-affirming! The idea of having to view your whole life lived over again is really interesting and gives a different perspective to events. From the first page you are plunged into this fascinating world of guardian angels and I loved it - I started the book one afternoon and read and read until I finished it the following night. The demons are brilliant too - some out and out nasty and some spreading more subtle unhappiness by telling their human that they're not good enough. The part that I didn't like about the book is the suffering and abuse of the little child at the beginning. It was too much and too awful for me and I nearly just put the book down and stopped reading. (I admit it, I am a big soppy mum and I'm very sensitive.) I read on because the underlying atmosphere of the book is positive and caring and I felt I needed to read on to the part where the girl is safe in order to 'exorcise' the awful visions in my head. Having said that, I would recommend this book - but softies beware!