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The Chicken Soup Murder

Maria Donovan
ISBN-13: 
9781781723982
Publication Date: 
Saturday, September 23, 2017
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‘Handled with great sensitivity, this has great comedy, exciting developments and very moving moments, right through until the nicely worked solution to the mystery.’ – The Daily Mail

‘A thoroughly original, startling and very good novel indeed.’ - Fay Weldon

‘A beautifully written debut, with characters to fall in love with.’ – Danny Wallace

‘Fresh, suspenseful and tantalising’ – Christopher Meredith

‘A lovely, warm-hearted novel about love and grief.’ – Francesca Rhydderch

​‘I was gripped until the very last sentence’ – Frost Magazine

Maria Donovan’s debut novel, The Chicken Soup Murder, subverts the crime and murder mystery genres in a meditation on bereavement, friendship and the meaning of family. This emotionally involving coming-of-age narrative is told with resilience and humour by eleven-year-old Michael, a thoughtful boy who tests the boundaries of his own behaviour as he carries a burden of knowledge no one else seems willing to share.

Michael’s happy early life in a small seaside town – a cosy world of cricket and football, experiences shared with his best friend Janey and her family – is disrupted by the arrival of a bully, and blasted by visitations from Death: the biggest bully of them all. Within Michael’s own past are unanswered questions: why does he live with his grandmother? Are his parents really in prison? His magical creative thinking lands him in trouble: how reliable is his story and why is he the only one who thinks that a murder has been committed? What can he, a schoolboy about to turn twelve, do about it? Haunted by the injustice of a killing, he takes on the burden of trying to do the right thing: first helping the widowed mother of his best friend,  and then seeking justice for a murdered woman, as he resorts to making trouble in order to get at the truth. As Michael struggles to help himself and the people he cares for to move on, he learns about the acceptance of the facts of natural death – whether unexpected or predictable, caused by illness or accident. He sees what happens to those left behind when a loved one dies and, above all, how to recognise and overcome the stumbling block formed by the deliberate taking of a life to those who are grieving.

 

 

 

REVIEWS

Review by Fanny Blake, The Daily Mail

Friday, October 13, 2017

Written in the voice of 11-year-old Michael, who suspects a murder committed by a neighbour, this novel inevitably evokes Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.

But it quickly establishes an identity and panache of its own, vividly painting the immediate social world of a prickly, precocious boy brought up by his nan, but with emotional ties to the neighbouring adults and children.

The plot is firmly rooted in its setting (a town close to Dorset’s Jurassic Coast) and time (2012), but the theme of a child’s dawning awareness of the lives of adults, and the beginning of his own transition away from childish things, is universal.

Handled with great sensitivity, this has great comedy, exciting developments and very moving moments, right through until the nicely worked solution to the mystery.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/article-4975246/DEBUT-FICTION.html#ixzz4vNHxhkaY

Review by Tracy Baines, Frost Magazine

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Although Maria Donovan has had great success with her short stories this is her first foray into longer fiction – and I dearly hope this debut novel is swiftly followed by another. It has such warmth and humour – which isn’t bad for a story about murder and death.

Michael lives with his nan in a little town near the sea with its magic hills and the three pebbled dashed semis in a long arc. But everything is turned upside down when the Bulls move in next door and Michael’s magical creative thinking lands him in trouble: why is he the only one who thinks a murder has been committed? Can we believe his story?

As Michael struggles to help himself and the people he cares for to move on, he learns about acceptance and grief, and to what happens to those who are left behind when a loved one dies.

Reading the above you might think that this would be a maudlin, fearful book but its not like that at all. Although Donovan explores the many repercussions of death – on family, friends and neighbours, she has a light touch and paints a varied picture of grief as it is, in its everyday shabbiness and unwashed clothes, in the difficulties of holding on and letting go.

The narrator, eleven-year-old Michael, just about to go up to ‘Big School’, leads the reader through the happenings at the three semis in the street where he lives; his own home where he lives with Nan, Irma the next door neighbour and best-friend Janey and her family at the house on the end.

It would do the novel a great injustice to describe it purely as a murder mystery because it is so much more. It is about what makes a family, what holds it together and how friends and neighbours can be family too. How much they become a part of the very fabric of our lives. I was gripped until the very last sentence.

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