Richard and Judy Review: The Land of Decoration – Grace McCleen

Richard and Judy Review: The Land of Decoration – Grace McCleen

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“An extraordinary novel”

Richard’s review

An extraordinary novel. God speaks to a little girl after she discovers she can perform miracles from the sanctuary of her bedroom.

At least, that’s what she thinks is happening.

Judith is ten years old. She never knew her mother. She lives with her father, who belongs to a devout Christian group. Judith shares their fundamentalist beliefs: the World is a Den of Iniquity; we are living in the Last Days; Armageddon is at hand.

Because of this, Judith is isolated at school. She is excused morning assembly ‘because I have to stay separate from the World’ and is the target for pitiless bullies who mock her beliefs. She takes refuge in The Land of Decoration, a strange, miniature universe she has created in her bedroom. It is Judith’s attempt to re-create ‘the land flowing with milk and honey’ that God promised the Israelites. She has made it from household rubbish – pipe-cleaners, matches, waste paper, bottle tops, but to her it is real. She has faith.

And somehow, The Land of Decoration acquires a strange, almost voodoo-like power. Things she makes happen there seem to occur in the outside world, too. One evening Judith, terrified of school next day because the bullies have threatened to jam her head down the toilets and she thinks she’ll drown, creates an artificial snowstorm using sugar and flour and her father’s shaving foam.

Next day – and it is early October – she wakes to find the world outside buried beneath a huge blanket of snow which no-one forecast.

It is Judith’s first miracle.

“This is such an eerie, funny, thought-provoking book”

Judy’s review

This is such an eerie, funny, thought-provoking book. What if miracles are real? What if a little girl can perform them? How would she use such power? And what if she believes God is speaking directly to her when she is alone in her room? Judith wrestles with such questions.

Remorselessly bullied by her sadistic classmate Neil and his posse of followers, Judith realises she has the power to work her revenge on them. But she worries that her strength should only be used for good.

God comes to the rescue.

‘There’s the Old Testament, you know,’ he tells her in one of their conversations. (These are very funny, by the way). ‘Eye for eye; tooth for tooth… I got tired of being messed around, you see. If people hurt Me, I hurt them back. It’s My Fundamental Law.’

Judith doesn’t need telling twice. Neil and his horrible gang aren’t going to know what hit’s them.

But at the very heart of this compelling story is Judith’s relationship with her father. It is deep and complicated and often difficult, but it revolves around powerful, elemental love. The closing pages are truly affecting and a demonstration of what a child is prepared to do for a parent they believe needs to be saved.

Even from Armageddon.

Press reviews

Here are a selection of the reviews for The Land of Decoration

“Book of the year – both sinister and sharply intriguing, with a completely convincing 11-year-old narrator caught in fundamentalism, school persecution and the edge of the miraculous.”

The Guardian

“Surprising, affecting, thoughtful and complex, McCleen’s novel grows in power the more time you spend with it, and marks her out as a writer to watch”

The Observer

“This extraordinary tale of one little girl’s End Times grabbed me by the throat. The Land of Decoration is part social observation and part crazy mysticism, held together by a brutally real story of parent-child love”

Emma Donoghue

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