I'm writing a dissertation as part of Master's in Engligh Studies. I am using the The Lovely Bones as part of my assignment and I would really appreciate hearing people's thoughts on the novel (be them positive or negative). Here a few key words/ideas to get the discussion going (though please feel free to suggest your own);
- favourite moments in the novel.
- moments that struck you as particularly emotional/powerful
- how heaven is represented.
- the ending of the novel
- the influence of the "fantastical" aspects of the novel (i.e. that it is written from the perspective of a dead girl in heaven, that Susie is able to swap bodies with Ruth). Did this effect your reading of the novel for the better or worse?
- in comparison to other similar fictional texts where NO element of the fantastical is employed, do you think The Lovely Bones is more or less emotionally powerful?
Thanks a lot, I look to forward to hearing people's response.
Let me chime in with some tidbits in reference to your question starters...
*Favorite moments: I loved the section about the photograph of Suzie's mother... how she could tell from that facial expression that her mother was really a different person than she thought she knew. The writing in that passage was just so touching and described a complex situation in a nuanced way. I also liked the end--it was satisfying in an unexpected way.
*Emotional/powerful: The initial rape scene is just so terrifying and disgusting. I read the first chapter nonchalantly in a bookstore and it led me to purchase and devour the novel. My hatred (which was eventually laced with a weak pity) for the killer was so intense; I wanted nothing more than for him to be caught. This fueled my interaction with the book. But, hands down, the most heartbreaking, tears-streaming-down-the-face moment was when Suzie's father, overcome with grief, smashes the ships in bottles they made together.
*Representation of heaven/fantastical elements: I thought that Sebold did an outstanding job creating a story where the characters were absolutely believable, yet there were also supernatural/fantastical things that flashed in and out. This, for me, made the novel more than just a mystery to solve. Then again, I actively seek out books written in the magical realism genre. I don't get upset when something happens in a book that "can't happen." I subscribe to Tim O'Brien's idea of "story truth" creating a stronger emotional impact than reality. In fact, I feel like that's why we read in the first place. But that's just me.
I'd be interested to see the reaction of a reader who typically prefers all out realism...