- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (4 Jan. 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0571313868
- ISBN-13: 978-0571313860
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
On Ruby’s thirteenth birthday she finds out that Barbara and Mick are not her real parents, she was adopted. Never fitting in, Ruby is happy at this news and sets out to find her real parents, who she believes will love and save her from the life of abuse and loneliness she has grown up with.
But Ruby is not totally alone, she has Shadow for company, she sees those that are dead. Shadow is her companion in her search for her parents, a search that takes over her life and she won’t be stopped by anyone.
The Doll Funeral is a hard book to categorise in a specific genre. It is also hard to review, in that I don’t want to give any spoilers away. The narrative is split into two timelines; in 1983 Ruby narrates her story in the first person narrative. I found this gave the story a very personal touch, I felt I was there with Ruby on her journey. The second narrative is set in 1970, and follows Anna, Ruby’s mother through her pregnancy and after. Using the third person narrative marks the clear distinction between the two stories and marks it in the past; we are being told Anna’s story by a narrator.
I found Kate Hamer’s writing wonderfully descriptive. I understood Ruby, her childlike thinking, her feelings and made me want to protect her from the world around her. The Forest of Dean plays an integral part of this novel, not only is it where both Ruby and Anna are from, a place of safety for Ruby but also a metaphor for Ruby’s feelings and life. Ruby retreats to the woods at difficult times, she seeks protection and safety in the canopy of branches, the nurturing effect of the forest and she sees nature as magical, which she learnt from her Grandmother. Like the trees, she wants to put down and find her roots, who she really is. The forest offers Ruby everything that she doesn’t get at home. Her relationship with nature has a sense of otherworldliness about it, it is where she spends time with Shadow and sees other dead people, it is also a place that changes quickly adding to the ethereal quality of this book.
At thirteen, Ruby just entering adolescence which is a confusing time for many a young person, its that time where we question who we are, and start to push boundaries and rebel against the world. For Ruby this is a time of reawakening, and the theme of mothers and daughters and their relationships is very much a part of this story. As a character Ruby is very determined and I thought she had a strength way beyond her years. Her story is not an easy one to read at times, she is physically and mentally abused by Mick, her adoptive father, and finds herself in difficult circumstances. As well as the physical abuse there is also the subject of child neglect raised in this book. Set in the early 1980’s, when there was less legislation on child abuse, so children like Ruby were not reported to the authorities, the bruises were hidden and the subject kept with in the family.
The Doll Funeral is a beautifully written, powerful novel. It has a magical and atmospheric feel that weaves around Ruby’s and Anna’s stories, that will compel you to follow their stories; a captivating read.