On Ruby’s thirteenth birthday, a wish she didn’t even know she had suddenly comes true: the couple who raised her aren’t her parents at all. Her real mother and father are out there somewhere, and Ruby becomes determined to find them.
Venturing into the forest with nothing but a suitcase and the company of her only true friend—the imaginary Shadow Boy—Ruby discovers a group of siblings who live alone in the woods. The children take her in, and while they offer the closest Ruby’s ever had to a family, Ruby begins to suspect that they might need her even more than she needs them. And it’s not always clear what’s real and what’s not—or who’s trying to help her and who might be a threat.
Told from shifting timelines, and the alternating perspectives of teenage Ruby; her mother, Anna; and even the Shadow Boy, The Doll Funeral is a dazzling follow-up to Kate Hamer’s breakout debut, The Girl in the Red Coat, and a gripping, exquisitely mysterious novel about the connections that remain after a family has been broken apart.
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Melville House (August 15, 2017)
The Doll Funeral is my second book by Kate Hamer and as in The Girl in the Red Coat (see my review of that book here), her writing conjures up misty and menacing forests and countryside in my head with its fantasy and almost fairy tale-like aspects. There is something slightly dark and melancholy in her writing style that makes me want to curl up with her books and a cup of tea--even in the midst of summer. The Doll Funeral is tagged as a psychological thriller and mystery and suspense on Amazon--along with the tags of family life genre fiction, and to me it leans more to the later. Some suspense is built, there are the mystical aspects and a thread of magical realism woven in, but it really reads more about family--chosen and blood, relationships, family secrets, and the journey to adulthood. In thirteen-year-old Ruby's case, that journey is somewhat perilous and fraught with confusion which transfers at times to the reader as it can be difficult to determine what is real and what isn't--just as it is for Ruby. The story is told in the alternating voices of Ruby, her mother Anna, and occasionally by Ruby's friend that only she can see--Shadow Boy. Time alternates too--between 1983, Ruby's time, and 1970 with Anna's perspective. It can be a challenge to keep track of what is going on, but the story and Ruby and Anna as characters were compelling enough that I wanted to find out the secrets and see how it all turned out. With the beautiful prose and strong images Hamer creates, it was well worth the journey.
My guess is that The Doll Funeral is strange enough that it won't be for everyone, but if you love evocative and hauntingly beautiful writing, enjoy modern-day fairy tales and magical realism, and like a unique and slightly strange story, you should enjoy it as I did. (And if it sounds like your kind of book, don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of the post for a chance to win a copy of your own.)
Author Notes: Kate Hamer is the author of The Girl in the Red Coat, which was a Costa First Novel Award finalist, a Dagger Award finalist, an Amazon Best Book of the Year 2016, and a winner of the ELLE Lettres Readers’ Prize. She lives in Cardiff, Wales, with her husband and two children.
You can connect with Kate via her website or Twitter.
There was not much food inspiration in The Doll Funeral, but there were a few mentions of food including--birthday cake with white icing, Smarties and thirteen candles, a garden of potatoes, swedes, and cabbages, a moon as fat as a peach, ears of barley, a sandwich, with yellow cheese, a mention of toffee apple, candy floss and treacle tart, lemonade and a lager shandy, Cola cubes (candy), beans on toast, wine, rabbit with a puddle of barely warm baked beans, parsnips, eggs, goat milk, fish and potatoes, coffee, tea, gravy, sausages and bread with ketchup, pickled vegetables, packets of spaghetti, cured meats and shavings of cheese, toffees, red wine, and salami.
Because nothing called to me particularly (except birthday cake and I certainly don't need cake) ;-) I decided to go with beans and toast as my book-inspired dish. I had been meaning to make Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe for a Bruschetta of Celery and Beans, and although it seems like it might be a bit more posh and involved than the ones that would have been eaten in the book, it sounded quick, easy and delicious--perfect for an end of the week dinner.
Hugh says, "This very simple bruschetta – a kind of beans on toast, if you will – is almost as quick and easy as opening a tin, but immeasurably more delicious. It tastes particularly good made with borlotti beans, which have a lovely creamy-nutty texture, but canned cannellini, haricot or butterbeans would work too."
Bruschetta of Celery & Beans
Slightly Adpated from Nigel Slater via TheGuardian.com
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 inner stems celery, sliced fairly thin, plus a few celery leaves
2 generous slices of sourdough or other robust bread
1 can borlotti beans, drained and rinsed (or other beans-I used small red beans)
1 tsp thyme, roughly chopped
a squeeze of lemon juice
1 garlic clove
extra virgin olive oil
a few shavings of Parmesan or hard goat's cheese
sea salt and black pepper
Heat the rapeseed or olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the celery and saute for about 5 minutes, until it starts to soften. Meanwhile, toast the bread.
Add the drained beans and the thyme to the pan with the celery. Cook gently, stirring, for a couple more minutes, to heat the beans through. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper and a little lemon juice.
Cut the garlic clove in half and rub its cut surface over the hot toast. Pour a little olive oil over the toast, then pile on the beans and celery.
Trickle over a little more oil, add the shavings of cheese, then finish with a few celery leaves.
Notes/Results: I don't know why I don't eat beans and toast more often. It makes for such a economical, filling, and soul satisfying meal. Here it is just a few humble ingredients that I would not have thought to put together but work really well together. The textures--soft, crisp, chewy and flavors--they thyme, garlic, celery leaves and cheese adding such good flavor to the beans and celery. I will happily make this again.
I'm linking this post up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is Say Moo!--Nigel Slater recipes featuring dairy or non-dairy--cheese & milks as ingredients.
I'm also linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Finally, since these are like open-faced sandwiches, I am linking them up to Souper Sundays, here at Kahakai Kitchen--where every Sunday, we feature soups, salads, and sandwiches from across the blogosphere. You can find the details for joining in on this week's post.
Note: A review copy of "The Doll Funeral" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.
The publisher is generously providing a copy of The Doll Funeral to give away (U.S. & Canada addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.
To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me if you ever had an imaginary friend and/or why you'd like to win a copy of The Doll Funeral.
There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Author Kate Hamer (@Kate_Hamer) (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me and the author on Twitter.)
Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Friday, Sept. 1st.
a Rafflecopter giveaway