TO STOP A HEART FROM BEATING
I have been recommending this book to all and sundry.
It is beautifully crafted, introduces a cast of believable
and interesting characters, has an intriguing plot, plenty of
humour and a most unexpected ending.
How to Stop a Heart from Beating is one of those rare novels
which leaves you satisfied but still wanting more. Yes, that
combination is possible. Somehow, Ballantyne, an Australian
now living and working in Dunedin, has captured exactly the
nuances and language of family life in sleepy-hollow New
Zealand circa 1960s.
Her central character, the endearing 9-year-old Solange, is
the middle child between two sets of twins and a loner
comfortable in her own world. When she visits the local
cemetery and finds out there are people buried in unmarked
paupers' graves - which she mishears as ''porpoise graves'' -
she decides to give each grave occupant a story, a time of
death and a cause of death.
As Solly concocts her stories, the secrets engulfing her
family unfold around her. Being only 9 she cannot unravel
them all, and her innocence and coping mechanisms for what is
happening gives this book much of its charm.
The book is set in South Otago. I immediately pictured the
location as Owaka, and Jack's Blowhole as the site of the
ominous ''spinny pools''. And I could clearly visualise
Solly's family's seaside crib with its basic ablutions and
many home-made additions.
How to Stop a Heart from Beating would make a terrific movie.
By the time I had finished reading I had cast almost all of
the characters - Solly, her older brothers and their friends,
Mum, Doug, Aunty Lal, Maggie, the delightful Mrs Gorsey and,
of course, misunderstood Reg.