Thursday, 6 January 2011

Review: Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari


Publisher: Macmillan
Format: Paperback
Released: January 7th, 2011
Grade rating: A+


Amazon summary:

Twelve-year-old Mira comes from a chaotic, artistic and outspoken family where it’s not always easy to be heard. As her beloved Nana Josie's health declines, Mira begins to discover the secrets of those around her, and also starts to keep some of her own. She is drawn to mysterious Jide, a boy who is clearly hiding a troubled past and has grown hardened layers - like those of an artichoke - around his heart. As Mira is experiencing grief for the first time, she is also discovering the wondrous and often mystical world around her.

Review:

I've been thinking about Artichoke Hearts ever since I finished it last week. It just keeps creeping back into my thoughts, and the only thing I can do is talk about it. I've bothered my mum, my friends at work, Twitter... anyone who I can tell about it, I've told. It's honestly that good. It actually took me by surprise, as before I bought it I'd resigned myself to thinking it wasn't for me. My friend told me it wasn't very good, so I essentially ignored it. Then it arrived at work looking all shiny and colourful, and I knew I had to read it. I'm so glad I did, because already it's a contender for the best book of 2011.

Artichoke Hearts is a novel about many things: love, loss, acceptance, family, friendship. You name it, it's in there. You'd think that covering so many topics would clutter the story and leave it in a tangled mess, but it's the exact opposite. It adds depth and emotion to what is a pretty normal story; after all, we all deal with the loss of a loved one at some point in our lives. If I'm honest, death is something that I find myself thinking about a lot. I'm an anxious person and it's just how I am. Since reading Artichoke Hearts, I've started to think about it with an entirely new perspective: one of hope and positivity. People die, yes, but that doesn't mean we lose our memories or our moments we shared with them. Life should be celebrated, and that's exactly what I think Brahmachari was trying to say through Nana Josie and her acceptance of her time coming to an end.

Mira is a typical 12-year old girl. She's on the cusp of growing up and becoming a woman, and is realising that boys aren't just there to be friends with. She's innocent but worldly, if that makes any sense. It's like she's seen so much more than she has, and has a greater understanding of people and the world than she should do. She's dealing with so many life lessons that it's hard not to feel for her. She's watching her beloved Nana Josie deteriorate, she's having feelings for Jidhe Jackson, her body is changing, and all the while she's writing her life down in a journal as part of a school writing club project. I saw a lot of myself in Mira, and I think every girl will relate to her in one way or another. She's the type of protagonist who speaks to you, and I can't say enough good things about her.

Now for my favourite character: Josie. Nana Josie is one of those rare people you'd be lucky to meet. She's graceful and dignified, and she has a sense of humour that had me laughing through my tears. She's the kind of person we all wish we could be, and her strength is an inspiration. Though she's suffering and knows things aren't going well for her, she maintains a sense of normality through it all. Yes she has her quirky moments, of which you'll find out when you read the book (Look out for Moses!), but she's also just the same old Nana Josie to her son and grandchildren. Nothing and no-one can take away her fire, and that to me is just amazing.

Artichoke Hearts draws on real life in a way that makes you think it could be talking about your friends or relatives. It's such a simple story on the surface, but as you turn the pages and Mira's life unravels, it becomes clear that there is so much more to her and her family. It's a beautifully written coming-of-age story and, if this is the standard that future British debut novels have to live up to, I'd say we're in for a fantastic year. It really is a special book, and it's one that will stay with me for a very long time.

16 comments:

A.M Bells said...

It sounds wonderful. In my reading list for sure.
Thank you for the review. ^_^

Becky said...

What a beautiful review! I just read a book on similar themes so I will give it a while before I read this. But I definitely will now because it sounds like it gave you such hope and sunny optimism and you know how I was sad over Christmas and this might be soothing for me.
Love this review so much. One of my favourites that you've written. It is just so heartfelt - my favourite!

asamum said...

This sounds like a terrific if emotional read. Thank you for such a wonderful review.

Lauren said...

Really lovely review, Jenny. :)

Somehow, I had never heard of this one before, but it sounds like one of those books that gets into your heart. I *love* that.

Lisa_sps said...

This yer there's a great deal of promising debut authors. This is on my radar!

SJH (A Dream of Books) said...

I've added this to my TBR list because after reading your review, I definitely want to check this one out.

Bee said...

I've been wanting to read this ever since it featured in an issue of The Bookseller. Sadly I haven't seen it around the bookstores here :-|

Lauren said...

Great review! I keep hearing so many amazing things about this one so I really, really want to read now. Plus, I LOVE the cover.

नवीन तिवारी " विद्रोही " Naveen Tewari said...

Very engrossing read that's difficult to put down.

paul magrs said...

I've just finished reading this this evening. What a lovely, life-affirming novel.

Clover said...

A+ rating? That's saying a lot. It's definitely on my wishlist now and I can't wait to read it.

Kate Wilson said...

And has just won the Waterstone's Children's Book Award. Congrats to author and Macmillan, the publisher.

Anonymous said...

i have read this book and it is amazing!!! it really touches your heart and i cried quite a few times throught the book. this book is a must read!!!

Anonymous said...

I have recently finished this book. As it has an emotional twist to it, i would definitely recommend this book to any older children/teenagers. I think it is one of those books that the more you get into it the more unbearable it becomes to put it down, and the storyline definately sticks in your mind after reading it!!! Fab book!!!

David said...

I had never heard of this one before, but it sounds like one of those books that gets into your heart. I *love* that .

Homepage said...

Though she's suffering and knows things aren't going well for her, she maintains a sense of normality through it all.