Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Lives Broken By A Fractured Mind

Francesca Kay's Translation of the Bones is exquisitely written & so, so sad. Set in a small Catholic community in Battersea, the story revolves around the events set in motion by the experience of an intensely devout parishioner,Mary-Margaret O'Reilly. Her learning difficulties are acknowledged by her parish priest & fellow parishioners . As in many such cases, while they appreciate her fervour, ultimately they find her a bit of a nuisance. They  take the easy route of ignoring  & dismissing her increasingly odd behaviour. Herein lie the seeds of tragedy.
As the story unfolds we follow the lives of the group, share their cares & worries, & see why Mary-Margaret's drift into a more & more disturbed world is missed. We see how those who could help her  don't see the warning signs & why the person who should be her strongest support  (her mother, Fidelma), is too broken & damaged herself to even recognise the spiral that her daughter is in.
I seem to have managed to make this novel sound like hard going & a depressing read. It isn't at all. Francesca Kay's poetic style & subtle nuance make for a beautiful reading experience. There is no happy ending &, in fact, a truly shocking centre point to the story. One of the things that I liked most about this book is that it carried on after the climactic event to examine the aftermath. How do people carry on after something so awful? How do you work through such a thing & its reverberations? How can you begin to understand the breakdown of a human nature to the point where it can see doing something so wrong as perfectly natural & logical?Another strong point about this book, for me, was how the author moves the work towards  the beginings of  healing, the tiny shoots of tranquility, even, for some, the start of new life & hope.
Lovely writing, to be savoured slowly & thought about deeply.


  1. Oh, Ali I'm sure I will never read this book. Sad stories upset me so badly that I try not to read them if I know beforehand that they are sad! I know I might be missing beautiful books but well, luckily there are many others which are not sad!

    Thanks for the review and have a happy weekend!

  2. Wise to avoid it if you get upset. Hope your weekend was happy too.