A Million Angels
London, HarperCollin, 2011, 266p
This is a sweet story about the effects of way, particularly the effects on children who are separated from their parents. It spans across generations, with young Jemima's tale paralleling that of her grandmother, who lost her family and childhood sweetheart during the Blitz.
The title, A Million Angels, refers to the biro scribbles that Jemima draws in her arms. She draws angels, which she imagines fly out to protect her father in Afghanistan. Jemima really struggles to deal with her father being away, with the risk of death in his face every day. She acts out at school and at home, setting off fire alarms, pretending to be sick, etc., in the hope that it might bring her dad back to England. Meanwhile, her heavily pregnant mother finds it hard to connect with her daughter, despite the fact they are both battling the same worries.
Jemima is a somewhat difficult character. She refuses to speak out about her feelings, so bottles everything up inside. People think she is different, even weird. At school, she is teased and doesn't understand what it takes to fit in. At home, she feels like her mum hates her, always pushing her to spend time with girls she doesn't like. Her strange behaviour is not discussed by her and her mother, but ignored, so it builds and festers until it explodes. I do not particularly sympathise with Jemima's situation, as her refusal to speak out frustrated me, but I think her journey through loneliness is one felt by many young girls.
Maryon is a beautiful writer - some of her metaphors and similes made me stop to appreciate the childlike simplicity of language. She has really engaged with her twelve year old protagonist, and brought a world to life through her eyes.