The story is set in Streatham, London in the early 80's. Judy Jones, pops into a telephone box to have a conversation, without her mother listening in, when a wall collapses on her. Religion, in particular Catholicism, feature strongly as themes of near-death experiences and religious fervour, not subject matter I'd normally seek out, but the strength of the writing lifts the subject matter making it immensely readable. I was instantly drawn into the book and really wanted to know how the family would cope with all the changes including Judy's father converting to Catholicism against her mother's wishes.
Jane Davis really does bring characters to life, mothers, fathers, friends, teachers are all perfectly described along with their actions and reactions to events. I love the occasional asides, an overheard conversation here, or a mental comparison of one home with another there, all of which helps to anchor the story.
Ultimately relationships, albeit in extraordinary circumstances, are central to this book.
I was pleased to see there is a preview of another book included in the kindle edition by this talented writer.
I have just finished reading Jane Davis's 3rd book, These Fragile Things, and cannot recommend it enough! It is so moving, thought provoking, sad and funny.
It is about a 'normal' family consisting of 3 members, Mum, Dad and teenage daughter, and how they all react after the daughter has a very bad accident. From various instances you can see how each member has reacted in a different way and how that then evolves into the 'family' life. Religion is saught/questioned by 2 of the members - something that had not really been thought about before the accident. The expections for the daughter, from the parents, differs widely as one saw the aftermath of the accident before she (the girl) was taken to hospital, the other didn't. Different voids set up within the family.
Jane has captured peoples anguish so amazingly - you feel all the emotions whilst reading this ebook. The book could have been a lot longer, going in to more detail about certain instances, but then again, I feel Jane has left them for you to think through yourself and what you would do/expect.
This is a book I would really recommend to anybody! Personally I think it is her best, by far, so far and cannot wait for a new one to be published!
These Fragile Things is an essay on survival: what does it mean to survive? How do we define successful survival? And when one's life has changed dramatically, how are those around us dragged in to our experience of surviving? When teenager Judy is almost killed in 1982 by a falling tree, her parents respond in very different ways. Her mother, Elaine, is bogged down by the practicalities while her father, Graham, makes a pact with God. In this intense, emotionally complex novel, we witness (in the Biblical sense as well as the literal narrative sense) how Judy's survival impacts not only on her parents, but those around her. And we wonder - along with all the characters in the book - whether and how that pact with God has manifested itself in the deeply spiritual visions Judy then has.
This book could be seen as an exploration of the impact of the embrace of religion on routine domestic life, but that would be to oversimplify what I think the author is trying to do. This book is more about our desire to explain what happens to us, to justify the tipping of the scales of existence to one side or the other, and our desire to maintain an equilibrium when everything changes. For me, the novel became particularly interesting once Judy began to experience her visions, and the author has done a clever balancing act herself by showing the impact of these extraordinary claims by Judy on two religious figures, Sister Euphemia from Judy's new convent school, and Father Patrick, Graham's priest. Their negotiations of their religion with the tensions of the real world are an interesting counterbalance to Graham's absorption in Catholicism as the means of his salvation and Judy's.
Without giving away the plot of the novel, what becomes apparent in the last part is that Graham's initial evaluation of what it means for Judy's to survive is challenged. Just as the novel explores in great detail the dynamics of a marriage under pressure, and the pervasive influence of memory and the past in shaping our present choices and how we remember what is happening to us right now, it also explores the dynamics of guilt about that survival. When Judy is labelled the Miracle Girl, she becomes the focus for everyone else's grief and trouble, not to mention the focus for some equally faithless and lurid speculation about her family. Judy is positioned as responsible for the fates of others because hers seems to have been decided by God.
I would like to have read more about what Judy herself thought about that. We learn quite a lot about Judy's experiences of her visions, but less about the impact of their consequences on her, such as what she feels about all the people who flock to her door. And while the author has evoked the social and cultural atmosphere of 1982 very effectively, for me there is a bit of a muddling in the narrative voice between the subjective stream of consciousness of Elaine and Graham in particular, and the omniscience of the writer, which occasionally makes Elaine and Graham sound a bit too objective about what is happening to them.
This novel will be about different things depending on who is reading it: about the internal pressures on a family in a crisis; a meditation on how teenagers and their parents negotiate changes brought on by growing up; about the difference between religion and faith and the sheer power of belief. Whatever you take away though, this book will make you think.
This is an extraordinarily well written book, in that it moves fast, draws the reader quickly into the story, and never wastes a word. Fast moving and punchy, it starts with a bang, when Elaine's daughter Judy is seriously injured, simply as a result of bad luck. The tale unfolds section by section, and it might spoil the story if the sequence of events is given here, but I can say that right the way through it's a highly charged, emotional, fairly shocking and dramatic story of how the principle characters' lives change. Various contentious subjects are handled sensitively: the mysteries of the catholic faith, nymphomania, near death (out of body) experiences and, at its heart, the roots of the main characters' happiness and misery. Loneliness in all its forms is examined too, some of those we meet being enmeshed in a loneliness they cannot break free of, but are stolidly getting on with their lives in the only way they can, driven by their feelings and desires. There's the sadness of nostalgia, the yearning for 'what might have been if only . . .' And it's interesting also in the way that bizarre and strange occurrences are experienced by the characters, usually tackled head on, using a combination of common sense and hope. The book takes on some pretty big issues and presents them carefully, examining just what might occur if such and such were to happen, and predicting logically the kind of events that might transpire. As a result of Judy's accident, the lives of her parents are never going to be the same again, and this 'changeability' of the fragile human psyche, to me, was what this book was all about. The frustrating reality of how one small decision can lead to catastrophe, and catastrophe can lead off into an unknown that overtakes your life, and there's no going back. It's a thought provoking 'what if' book that I thoroughly enjoyed.
That Jane Davis is an important new writer is a given. For those who have not yet had the visceral experience of reading her novels this particular book THESE FRAGLE THINGS is a terrific starting point. Davis has found confounding concepts and plays them out in her craftsmanly prose like an experienced professional.
The story is compelling and has been summarized for us: `As Streatham, South London, still reels from the riots in neighboring Brixton, Graham Jones, an ordinary father, grows fearful for his teenage daughter Judy who faces a world where the pace of change appears to be accelerating. But even he cannot predict what will happen next. A series of events is about to be unleashed over which he will have no control, and the lives of his family will change forever. When Judy claims to be seeing visions he will call it a miracle, and, to his wife's horror, the hungry press will label their daughter `The Miracle Girl.' Elaine, present when she came close to losing her daughter a first time - knowing it was the paramedics and surgeons who saved her - will demand a medical explanation. But Judy, refusing to become caught in this emotional tug-of-war, is adamant. She must tread her own path, wherever it takes her. Delusion, deception, diabolic...or is it just possible that Judy's apparitions are authentic?'
This is a book that deals with conflicts - between religion and superstition and acts of nature and science and perhaps luck - and how an earth-shattering act affects an ordinary family. But in addition to the Grand Guignol effects of the novel, the shining light is in Jane Davis' ability to create characters who rise out of bland reality and become various forms of heroes, victims, and lines of communication from the world beyond, profound religious faltering - or simply move along, s stagnant in their roles that they are frozen in time. These characters Davis creates move form the epitome of ordinary to the peak of extraordinary in the most reasonable manner. This is a fine story, written by a gifted author who has her feet firmly planted in the echelon of significant writers of today. Grady Harp, August 13
Jane's three published novels to date (Half-truths and White Lies; I Stopped Time; These Fragile Things) are very different in character, but all are individually imaginative and highly readable. These Fragile Things deals with the reactions within and around a somewhat fragile Streatham family following a traumatic accident to the teenage daughter. Judy's near-death experience involves physical disfigurement, huge determination to recover, with significant help from others, and conviction of a deep spiritual vision, which is regarded with widely differing attitudes by her mother, her father, her friends, her neighbours, her school contacts and inquisitive members of the public and news media. The credible characters from very different walks of life are finely drawn, with entertaining insights. Medical and spiritual research underpin this fluently written story. A thoroughly enjoyable read. I look forward eagerly to Jane's next book.
This story takes the reader through the 1980's to discover how Judy and her parents' lives change dramatically following a freak accident. Faith plays a central role to the story, faith in the medical profession, in God, in friends and inner faith. Whatever your beliefs, this incisive book will leave you thinking. The fascinating characters are very well written, the captivating story oozes with facts, feelings and music from the 80's, Jane Davis's references are spot on.
This book is unique, full of surprises and a thoroughly good read. Your mind will be stretched with the subject matter and not with the effort of reading. This book simply flows, one of those books that you lose track of time reading, then wish you hadn't reached the end so quickly.
I can't wait for Jane's next book to be published!
If one reads a lot, book after book (as I do), you sometimes get a sense of repeated themes, story arcs, and plot points that begin to run together in ways that make it hard to discern what's outstanding or noteworthy from the book before. Then a story jumps out at you with a raw burst of originality and thought-provocation that goes deeper than most, leaving you thinking and pondering the issues and plot lines unfolding in front of you. That would be These Fragile Things.
Written with tremendous skill and thoughtfulness, the story follows events surrounding a family impacted by their only child's massive injury in a wall collapse. The myriad twists of fate that seem to follow this horrific happenstance not only turn each of their lives upside down, but take interesting narrative detours. What seems to be heading in the direction of a "triumph over adversity" tale morphs into explorations of faith, religion, miracles, belief; the anguish of both physical and psychic pain, the loneliness of an altered existence that seems out of one's control, and the unfolding impact of all these events on everyone involved.
As young Judy Jones attempts to find as normal a life as her injuries will allow, both her parents, Graham and Elaine, smack hard into their own very disparate reactions: him, to religion, converting to Catholicism in fulfillment of a hospital-made promise; her, to reckless flouting of fidelity and commitment. But when Judy, ultimately ensconced in a Catholic school, becomes convinced she's having visions of the Blessed Mother, visions that become a form of viral religious zealotry amongst the countless people and media that begin to hound and surround their lives, everything crescendos into a powerful, unexpected conclusion that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat... not something one expects in a story of this nature!
Jane Davis has a beautiful way with words and a deeply engaging narrative style that keeps you involved and anticipatory. I so appreciated her taking on a story that shines new, contemporary light on spiritual concepts—miracles, visions, visitations—we've read about and explored over the centuries, and I very much look forward to reading her other work.
In "These Fragile Things", the characters’ thought processes, emotional machinations and motivations are unfolded with thoroughness and clarity in real time, giving us a feeling of being intelligently anchored in reality throughout. But there are heights and spaces aplenty above this grounding: in the visionary/spiritual questings of the Miracle Girl and her credulous father; in the upward yearning implied by her incredulous mother’s desperate flirtation with disaster; and simply in the novel’s uncovering of the height and space within the minds of its three main characters, although/because all three of them are in fact (beyond certain newsworthy events) normal, reasonably bright, reasonably good individuals trying to make sense of their particular lives, nothing more … *and* nothing less, for this scenario itself perhaps contains the miracles.
With sharply-drawn suburban London locations and a convincing feel of coming from its late-20th-century decade, the novel’s conversations are often enriched by slipping neatly between someone’s external utterances and her or his internal experience. This experience may be the character’s unvoiced thoughts during the dialogue, or an informative mental tangent or detailed memory – which then draws the reader in, until the other person’s next spoken utterance seems to break in upon the reader in the same way it does upon our character herself. In addition to the warm sympatheticness of the three main characters, many of the habits of thought and the sometimes claustrophobic family dynamics we are thereby shown inside them also provide a nicely realistic view of the constrictedness that the mundane world tends to wreak on people’s thinking and horizons, without their noticing. But this effect is certainly not wrought on the reader here: for one of this novel’s many energetic and skilful successes is perhaps in suggesting that whether or not there are miracles as such, each of us does nonetheless retain the option of remaining richly alive to the miraculous within the fabric and the mysteries of the everyday world around us.
Elaine sends her thirteen year old daughter to the shop when she runs out of stamps. After a while when Judy doesn't return, she goes to look for her. Judy has been in a horrendous accident and only just escapes with her life. Her father Graham goes to the hospital chapel to pray for his daughter and meets a nun. They share a special moment together that changes him forever.
Judy and her father become closer and Elaine feel pushed out. Judy feels that she was saved for a reason and she is determined to fulfill her mission in life.
Elaine her mother is falling deeper and deeper into a pit of emotional despair. The divide between her and Graham is widening as each day passes. Will they be able to resolve their individual problems before the divide splits them all apart?
This book will take you on a journey into parts of the psyche we never normally explore. It will make you look at life differently and ask yourself the big questions we all normally avoid.