If I had to pick one thing to do for the rest of my life it would be reading, so I’m starting a new segment dedicated to book reviews.
On my bedside table: How to Stop a Heart from Beating by Jackie Ballantyne
Why I picked it up: This was the first piece of New Zealand literature I got my hands on, as well as the first book I actually had to buy because I didn’t have anything else to read. I was in Queenstown for a week and the book I’d brought with me was quicker to finish than expected, so I popped into this cute little second-hand bookshop and thought I would give New Zealand fiction a go.
What it is about: Set in 1961 in a little rural town somewhere between Dunedin and Christchurch, How to Stop a Heart from Beating is the story of nine-year -old Solly McKeen, a curious and lonely child who asks too many questions and lives inside her head more than she should.
The book opens on Solly’s first visit to the Cemetery, for her Grandma’s funeral. Her interest is caught by twelve graves with no names or dates on them, only numbers. Her Auntie explains that those are pauper’s graves, where people too poor to afford a funeral are buried. Solly is so moved by this that she decides these people can’t just be forgotten, so she makes it her priority to give them an identity and a proper funeral.
The whole story revolves around Solly’s attempt to come up with names and ideas to kill these “Porpoise” People, so they can finally have a respectable burial and she can set her mind at peace.
Solly doesn’t know how to make people die, but she mostly manages to work it out with her fervent imagination and by giving a personal interpretation to her Auntie’s medical books.
This novel touches on very deep themes such as the idea of double (Solly is the only child in a family of twins), friendship, bullying and of course death, all filtered through the eyes of innocence of a nine year old.
Overall, How to Stop a Heart from Beating is a very sweet, funny novel that will also make you shed a tear from time to time.
Would I recommend it: YES. I love when stories are told from a child’s perspective and this is probably the best one I’ve read so far. I devoured this book and I’ll definitely look into more work from the same author.