The Land of Decoration

Grace McLeen

The Land of Decoration

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. 3.6 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
The Land of Decoration

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 304
RRP £12.99
Date of Publication March 2012
ISBN 978-0701186814
Publisher Chatto & Windus
 

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.

Reviews

The Observer

Nicola Barr

This young writer has done a brave, bold thing, writing what is effectively a religious allegory set in the mid-80s Welsh valleys. The community she depicts truly has an end-of-the-world feel – it is aggressive and hostile, full of chaotic, deprived households, a nightmarish vision of strikes and riots and bullying.

04/03/2012

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The New York Times

Amity Gaige

This novel builds interesting uncertainties into its narrative: Is Judith capable of dark magic, or are the events in her life coincidence? Is the wrathful voice inside her somewhere in the realm of imaginary friendship, or is she schizophrenic? McCleen never tips her hat. The writing is born of a genuine inquiry into the nature of religious belief, especially as it relates to one’s psychological development. We know that children are uncomfortable with ambiguity, but so are they, as this novel suggests, uncomfortable with the biblical literalism maintaining that the End really will come, and that all of their neighbors and teachers will be washed away or burned because they did not believe. The Land of Decoration puts a child at the crux of this interpretive dilemma, and our hearts go out to her.

22/06/2012

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The Independent on Sunday

Viv Groskop

Grace McLeen's writing is deep, fantastical and powerful, and she really lets us into the heart of this tender, gentle little girl. Judith has a great sense of humour, especially when describing the church's views on "Tactics of Evasion" (people not answering their doors or, on one occasion, pouring a bucket of water over her father) and on people who "Get In With the Wrong Crowd."

11/03/2012

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The Washington Post

Ron Charles

McCleen herself was raised in a fundamentalist church and spent her teen years isolated from unbelievers. She lost her faith as an adult, but not her sympathy for the faithful, which saves The Land of Decoration from being another bitter story about a child in a cruel, God-fearing home. She’s after something more subtle and tragic, a sense of the way grief and orthodoxy can ferment in a cloistered mind ... but the voice of her little narrator can’t carry this story all the way to heaven. Much of the language here is too flat and pedestrian. Other passages soar into flights of preciousness that are like reading a thousand greeting cards at a Christian bookstore.

20/03/2012

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The New York Times

Janet Maslin

... the book’s tensions mount in a simple and schematic way, with danger escalating on cue and Judith’s mental state getting scarier, until it’s time for them to stop mounting and for Judith’s little world to become a better place. Then it finds resolution. This particular apocalypse is not what it’s cracked up to be.

21/03/2012

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The Sunday Times

Lucy Scholes

As the novel wears on, though, the reader can become a ­little wearied by the repeated use of corporeal reactions to emphasise Judith’s state of mind;the conclusion, too, arguably ties up the loose ends a little too neatly for what is otherwise such a promisingly bold book. But McCleen remains a talent to watch.

04/03/2012

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The Guardian

Colin Greenland

At her own level, of course, Judith is extraordinarily articulate, as her teacher confirms. This is a 10-year-old who imagines prayer as "a long-distance telephone call". If that's a problem for us as readers, the problem is not that a 10-year-old should make such a comparison, but that she should have that phrase in her head at all. When is this story taking place, exactly? ... Any author, of course, is free to scramble history into any shape they fancy. By doing it in this book, though, McCleen perilously weakens her argument. Absolute faith, she suggests, can be a kind of escapism, a compensatory strategy that easily turns pathological. But if what you're escaping isn't real in the first place, where's the harm?

23/03/2012

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