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Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars

on 11 September 2012
This book was received well before expected.
I struggled a bit with this one. I found it bit slow at first, Mary Margaret is obsessed with the church and feels sure she has witnessed a miracle. She takes it upon herself to test this when it seems that there will be no 'follow - up'.
Stella is strugling in her marriage and her young son Felix seems to be awaiting the Easter holidays. These people are inexplicably entertwined and what follows tests everyones faith.
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on 24 December 2012
I kind of enjoyed this book - but, I found the unfolding story became a predictable one. 'Religon' disapoints, is themain message - it disappoints and it damages.

The portraits of the various members of the Roman Catholic congregation were a little too near standard 'types', though the drawing of Mary-Margaret and her Mum was interesting, sociologically. The priest steps out from the ages of Graham Greene. I so wished this writer had something fresh to say in a story based around the ways inwhich we use our religious beliefs and apply them to the inadequacies and tragedies in our lives. For example,suppose the priest had been more positive in his own calling?

The tone, also,is one of quiet accepting despair of the human condition. The book, rather than making you think, drags you down to where you don't really want to. And says, 'twas ever thus,and ever shall be. More contrasts in the character's attitudes and less underlying dread and dreariness of atmosphere in advance would have made for a more lively read without detracting from the central tragedy.

Nevertheless, intellectually sound, and absence of cliched phrasiology, gives this novel 4 stars.
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on 11 June 2013
Beautifully written. It was such a pleasure to read this book. It's a slow, quiet, thoughtful novel about faith, love, sacrifice, doubt, despair. I found it very moving, almost poetic, and enjoyed every page of it. Though it's a short book I read it slowly, enjoying beautifully constructed sentences. It's a kind of book that you want to make time to read, to think and re-think the choices the characters made. Ultimately, to me, it was a book about what we choose to believe in and how we go on about justifying faith.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 March 2012
I read Francesca Kay's first novel An Equal Stillness, winner of the Orange Award for New Writers in 2009, and very much enjoyed it, so I was keen to start her latest book 'The Translation of the Bones'. This second novel, which is quite different, but equally as good as the author's first, is set in South London and revolves around the Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart and its parishioners.

This is a finely crafted novel - but it is rather a short one, so I shall try not to reveal too much detail about the story in this review. Mary-Margaret O'Reilly, a deeply religious but rather simple church volunteer, believes that whilst cleaning a statue of Jesus on the cross, she sees blood seeping from his wounds. When the story of this 'miracle' is subsequently broadcast, the church is besieged with people who desperately want to believe that miracles actually happen.

This, of course, has an impact on the regular churchgoers and causes additional stress for Father Diamond - who, apart from this pressure, is undergoing an agonizing crisis of faith. And then there is Mary-Margaret's mother, Fidelma, a morbidly obese woman and practically a prisoner in her high-rise flat, who spends her days staring out of the window living almost entirely through the memories of her past. Add to this some of the other parishioners: Stella Morrison, wife of an M.P, who holds dinner parties to promote her husband's career, desperately missing her ten-year-old son who is away at boarding school, and Alice Armitage, constantly worrying about her soldier son in Afghanistan, and you have a powerful story of love, loneliness, faith, family relationships and, above all, motherhood. And there is a genuinely upsetting twist to the tale - but I won't say more as I really don't wish to spoil the story.

Francesca Kay's writing is beautifully moving, however it is not overly sentimental or mawkish but has more of bittersweet melancholy running through the prose. This is a book to be read slowly, savouring the graceful language and I look forward to reading more of this author's work.

4 Stars.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 21 August 2011
Francesca Kay won the Orange Prize for New Writers in 2009 for her first novel, An Equal Stillness, a fictional biography of a female artist.

In The Translation of the Bones she explores new territory, setting her story in a quiet Roman Catholic parish in Battersea, London - well, perhaps things are not as they seem and the peace and calm belies a whirlwind of emotions and tumultuous questions about faith, organised religion, relationships especially those between mothers and their offspring.

Mary Margaret O'Reilly is a devout young parishioner, spending most of her time cleaning the Sacred Heart Church. She is described by the parish priest as a "duine de Dhia" which literally means "child of God" but which used to be the Irish term for a child with special needs. Whilst cleaning one particular statue of Jesus on the cross, she witnesses a "miracle" and she believes the statue is actually bleeding. Religious hysteria and frenzy ensue and the church suddenly becomes the focus of manic religious fervour. Indeed the story reminded me of the many reported sightings of "moving statues" in Irish churches during the mid-80s - folk are always hungry for examples of modern "miracles".

However, the "miracle" is merely a backdrop to the stories played out by local parishioners including Margaret Mary's reclusive mother, Fidelma who is confined to her high-rise flat where she reminisces about maltreatment by the "holy" nuns whilst waiting for her daughter to feed her. Stella Morrison feels the removal of her son to boarding school like the cutting of the cord, Alice Armitage keeps herself busy tending to the needs of elderly parishioners in an effort to distract herself from the pain of having her son fighting in Afghanistan. After a decade in the priesthood, Father Diamond, still finds himself questioning his vocation. One would be forgiven for thinking that the Sacred Heart parish is indeed in a "state of chassis".

I really enjoyed this novel - there are times when loud and brash does the trick for me but I also appreciate those quiet, unassuming books which gradually reveal little gems of characterisation and exploration of themes, here, the painful nature of motherhood, the role of faith in our lives, the frightening aspects of change. The lack of chapters, speech marks could sound alarm bells amongst prospective readers but I can assure you that the prose flows so smoothly that I didn't even notice their absence until I finished reading the novel and flicked through it - she's that skilful as a writer! Whilst reading I was reminded of the writing of Brian Moore (The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne) which is another reason I'm looking forward to reading more from the pen of Francesca Kay.
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on 19 January 2012
Francesca Kay's second novel is just as good (although different) from her first. The way she writes is beautiful. She captures words incredibly well, and the different characters leave a distinctive impression and stay with you long after reading it.
And on top of all this, it is also a gripping story!
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on 1 October 2012
Other reviews have quite rightly praised the writing of this novel and the clever way that we see the different characters develop and and the way their lives interweave with one another
It is not a depressing book but an honest account of how disaster can strike through the misguided actions and self-concerned of people who intend no harm wheter it is the girl who does the dreadful deed or those others like her mother and her mother whose acts and decisions lie in the distant past.
It is also a book that shows how each person still has some way foward
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on 14 October 2011
A beautifully written novel, sometimes almost a poem. Really got sucked into the lives of the characters who were almost all lost souls.
The down side was the portrayal of the characters who were not British or Irish and who I found one dimensional and at times treated in a condescending manner. Are we supposed to judge Mrs Abdi because bedtime for her large family is past 11pm? If not why is it mentioned.
However the main downside is I wanted to know more. It is quite a slim volume and some characters are sketched in as if we are going to find out more about them but we don't. This is especially so with Rita and her niece.
Overall I found it very moving and the parts about the nature of the love between mother and child and about faith and loss of faith especially so.
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on 9 June 2016
This book started well with well drawn characters and an interesting plot line, however, I found that it became dull and predictable by the end. The treatment of Catholicism was unconvincing with various inaccuracies that I found made the book less convincing and there was a sentimentality to the treatment of faith that meant Kay's exploration of its effect on different characters was one dimensional. This book was ok, but I was skim reading it by the end.
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on 1 April 2012
I feel really churlish giving this three stars (I would prefer three and a half). I can see that it's well written and the characters are generally convincing. My main complaint is about how depressing it is. I found it heavy going, even more so because I could see where it was heading and there was just no light at the end of the tunnel. The claustrophobic life of Mary Margaret and her mother was well depicted but I just couldn't find any pleasure here. I was looking forward to the Catholic theme, familiar territory for me, but it didn't deliver. Sorry. I see that her previous novel got amazing reviews. For my penance I will read it and try to make reparation with a more positive review.
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