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One : Sarah Crossan

OneOne by Sarah Crossan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admire books like this. No, I think, I admire writers and writing like this. I admire writing that is so resolutely of itself, so careful and crisps and precise and acute and heartfelt with every step it takes. I admire writing like this because it is so conscious of the space in between the words – the pauses – the breaths. Poetry is about breathing, really, at its heart (and what a pounding, emotional, life-filled heart this book holds) and this book is so very full of heart.

‘One’ is a book about love. It is a book about being both one and other; the story of conjoined twins Tippi and Grace. Friends. Sisters. A part of each other, a whole split into two and one and two and one. And Tippi and Grace must go to school.

Crossan’s style (and for those of who you haven’t experienced her work before, do look at ‘Apple and Rain’ and ‘The Weight of Water’) is such an effortless thing. I’m sure it’s not though. I’m sure that words like this, so fine and careful and clear and sharp as glass, take time to find and I applaud the skill of doing so. The chapters are, as a whole, short and intensely reader-friendly as a result. They also remind me of a question I was asked a long time ago at my university: “When you read a book, do you read the black ink or the white space around the ink?”. I’ve thought about that a lot since. It has, in a way, informed everything I think on literature and how I write personally. It is a quote with a curious applicability to this novel. You read ‘One’ and it is a book about the space in between the words and around them, as much as it is about them. Crossan is so very good at what she’s doing here. So good.

One is due out on 27th August 2015. Save the date. Read her others beforehand. Have I mentioned recently about how good we have children’s / young adult literature right now?

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Apple and Rain : Sarah Crossan

Apple and RainApple and Rain by Sarah Crossan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The great grace of Crossan’s writing was made very clear with her debut, the quite beautiful The Weight of Water , and Apple and Rain is of a similar precise and graceful ilk. It is a very, very beautiful book.

Elegant, subtle and intensely moving, Apple and Rain tells the story of Apple and her family; Apple lives with her Nana after her mother left. Her father’s in a new relationship. And now that Apple’s mother has come home; eleven years after she left, and wants to renew her relationship with her daughter, Apple is caught between the worlds she lives in and the world she so desperately wants to exist.

There are a lot of books about family and the shape of families and how they fit and how they don’t fit, but I don’t think there are many like this. Crossan has a very gentle and subtle style so that we are laced to this story from day one and realise things as Apple realises them. We are with her, handfast, from the first page and that’s quite an intense and wondrous skill. When Apple starts to discover who she is and how she can live and what matters to her, it’s hard to not get emotionally moved and yes, I am using ’emotionally moved’ as a delicate euphemisim for ‘have a bit of a bawl’.

Crossan is on her way to becoming one of the definitive authors of children’s literature and it is a privilege and a joy to be a witness to that journey.

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The Weight of Water : Sarah Crossan

The Weight of WaterThe Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Weight of Water is a book written in blank verse and it is a very beautiful thing. When books are written like this, when the words are pared back, right back to the bare minimum of what they are and what they need to be, everything feels like it matters just that little bit more. The words. The punctuation. The space. When it’s all so exposed, there’s nowhere to hide.

In this story of an immigrant mother and daughter living a new and far too often awful life in England, we are exposed to the barest and baldest of emotions. It’s brave, firstly. I like books like this – books that demand to be told in a particular form and don’t fold and try to be something that they’re not. Kasienka’s story is one that thrives in the spaces, in the silence.

The Weight Of Water is awfully acute at certain moments. It’s a relatively quick read, but it’s one that I think benefits from rereading. When you return to the words and the silence and the beats in between her beautifully constructed sentences, you learn an awful lot about Kasienka. And sometimes, when she says the smallest of things, this is when you learn the most. You learn her kindness, her pain, and her intensely sharp and yet still somehow naive and innocent humour:

‘Mama says, “Don’t worry, Kasienka,
They have summers here too.”

But I don’t know
About that”

I love this. I have a lot of time for books that make me – just – feel – like this. Like there are stories in this world that are just waiting to be told once we find the right way to tell them.

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