Do Not Feed the Bear
By Rachel Elliott
A life-affirming novel of love and letting go – for readers of ELEANOR OLIPHANT, THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP and WHEN GOD WAS A RABBITTweet
Sydney is a cartoonist by trade and a freerunner in her spare time. She is a restless character who, it transpires, is still very affected by a traumatic event that happened when she was a child on holiday in St Ives with her family. On her 47th birthday she heads back to St Ives on her own to try and find some kind of resolution. The trip turns out to be life-changing both for Sydney and for many of the characters who were involved in the original incident.
Before I read this book I had no idea what to expect as the title did not give anything away. When I started to read it I could not have been more surprised. It really was a very good book indeed. The characters were great and the book was gentle and captivating with very believable relationship dynamics between the main individuals. It is very easy to read with moments of humour, yet it is never trite – there is a depth to the book which greatly increased my enjoyment of it. Belle was my favourite character as she was the voice of reason in a somewhat depressing and chaotic world.
The problem I had with the book was the haphazard nature of the timeframes and the multiple voices, all of which were very confusing at times. In addition, I found the dream/fantasy sequences hard going. By the time I got to the end I really wanted to give it 5 stars, but unfortunately the issue that I had with the writing style at various points ruled that out - I just can’t quite forgive not knowing “who, what, where or when” which seemed to add an unnecessary layer of perplexity.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Rachel, the author, has written other books and I would happily read these if I came across them.
I did not like- someone being dead in a shop; numbered list to describe a funeral; twitter comment list; dog narrator; fluffy toy narrator; being told what to think in some places.
However the characters did come alive and did seem real enough. A passion for life came through. This was a book worth reading.
As soon as I started reading it I knew I was going to love this book. Written in a unique style, this is an unusual and touching read. I really didn’t want the story to end, and even went back and forth in the book, rereading and savouring different sections - something which I never do. Can’t wait to read the author’s other book!
Jamie Semple of Pageturners bookgroup review
"Do not feed the bear" by Rachel Elliott
The title of the novel appears to refer to an illustration drawn early on by the character of Sydney to represent her partner Ruth's unhappiness.And to illustrate that most of the characters at the start of the novel appear to be symbolically trapped and unhappy.The linking factor appears to be bereavement.The loss of a loved one /the death of a relationship.
The Novel has a distinctive and deliberately eccentric narrative tone.Left field and elegiac.This includes not only the prose style but is accentuated by its structure.Almost every character in the novel has a first person set piece.Not only to introduce themselves but also to give voice to the author's preference for philosophical discourse.This even goes so far as giving voice to a corpse,a dog and a toy .Some of this is humorous in tone but has the effect of illuminating key Characters thoughts and motivations.Whether you like this approach or not would probably depend on if you like a novel to create an internal monologue for its characters.I was impressed by the atmosphere the novel conjured.The sense of people's feelings being interconnected and the optimistic outcomes that are possible even after a long period of emotional stagnation.Refreshing to read a novel with a hopeful outcome.This is a novel that I would advise to be read in as few sittings as possible.The amount of characters,the different perspectives and time structures make this a difficult novel to dip in and out of.I enjoyed reading this though and would recommend it without reservation.
I will be on the lookout for anything else by Rachel Elliott as this was a distinctive read.
This is a quirky, lively, funny, very readable book. The stories of the main characters become entwined in a web of love, loneliness, and the kindness of strangers. The characters are beautifully developed and complex. I particularly liked Maria Norton and her daughter Belle.
The writing is a little bit eccentric, and the author doesn’t use quotation marks at all. Once you get used to it, the lack of quote marks makes for a story that just seems to flow, with nothing stopping the talking to both the living and the dead. I liked that.
Despite some humour, there is a theme of loneliness in the book and there is much raw emotion. It’s about redemption, forgiveness and finding happiness, especially for the people who have gone off track in their lives for various reasons.
Without giving any more of the story away, I recommend this book and enjoyed reading it.