Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari
It took me a long time to be brave enough to read this and despite myself I wish I’d picked it up sooner. Allow me to introduce you to Multi Prize winner Sita Brahmachari and her award winning Artichoke Hearts.
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
A story of Mira, who is losing her grandmother slowly to cancer. Although her grandmother is determined that her death will end in celebration not grief, Mira can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by everything that’s going on in her life all at once – her grandmother’s slow decline, her first new (confusing) crush and her first chance to join other writers in an group at school.
Needless to say, this is an absolute tearjerker (I got through at least two boxes of tissues, I swear) but it’s not just tears for tears sake. There’s real thought gone in to the happy scenes of Mira and her Granma Josie happily decorating Josie’s coffin, exploring their dual artistic sides as best and enthusiastically as they can. The scenes in the hospice show real care and possibly endless rewrites have gone into them and all in all it’s a book that leaves you thinking as much about the author and her writing process as much as you do about the story.
Mira’s first romance is a surprise too and shows real depth has been given to the book’s characters – I did not see Jide’s story coming and it’s handled so beautifully. Few authors could introduce a ‘Surprise Background!’ to a character in the middle of a story, let alone one as deeply personal as Jide’s, without making it seem like shock for shock value. Brahmachari is one of them, and hats off to her for that.
Despite it’s grim plotline, this is not a wholly sad book. Brahmachari does a brilliant job in making a book about death uplifting as well as thought-provoking and to be honest I have absolutely no idea how she’s done it. I can’t think of anything in particular that leaves you pointing at it as the reason you leave with a good feeling at the end of the book, which could well mean it’s so subtle and woven into the story so seamlessly that you can’t help but end the book feeling better than you thought you would at the start.
Undoubtedly this is a book to be careful with. It’s not a book that should be read by everyone, because not everyone would be able to cope with it or it’s subject matter of cancer. I’m not entirely sure I was, some parts of it resonated a little too much for me and I can’t honestly say it’s a book I will definitely be able to go back to any time soon. I will however always remember it, and remember it positively. I don’t rule out the possibility entirely that given a few years, I will want to reread it. Few books have affected me the way this has, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Or drop in on the author herself here