New Book – When God was Rabbit by Sarah Winman


This new book starts in 1968.

The narrator is a little girl, Eleanor. She explains that her mother had her when she got off the bus after being in town. Eleanor is a very curious, lively little girl. We get snippets from her life with her family and her neighbours. Her brother is five years older than she is, and she admits that he looked after her better than her mother since her mum was depressed when her parents died in an accident in Austria. Eleanor has a peculiar way of seeing the world. Her parents talk to her about her birth as Eleanor’s brother had told her that she had been unwanted, so her parents explain to her that she was unplanned, but not unwanted, and when she makes the comparison to the birth of Jesus and repeats the same in Sunday school, the priest punishes her, making her stand in a corner, so she tells her parents she won’t return to Sunday school.

Then there is a new neighbour in her street. It is Abraham Golan, a Hungarian Jew, who Eleanor befriends and they talk about being a Jew. Eleanor sees the numbers on his arm, and curious as she is, she asks him about them, and Mr Golan tells him about the concentration camp. It is then that her brother is having surgery on his penis as he has phimosis, and when he explains he has a Jewish penis now, Eleanor says it will be like Mr Golan’s penis. I am not sure I understood this part, but Eleanor doesn’t see Mr Golan again. I imagine that Eleanor made the comment because she knew Mr Golan was a Jew, but I guess her brother thought there was something untoward with the man. It is not really very clear. Eleanor is upset because she claims Mr Golan was her friend, and her brother promises he will get her a new friend.Then it is Christmas, and her brother (we still don’t know his name) gives Eleanor a rabbit that she calls God. This is the friend he meant with all the business with Mr Golan.

I like the beginning. It is a different book, but the fact that it is told from the perspective of a little girl is quite refreshing. Now the action moves forward in time and it 1975, seven years later.



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