The Land of Decoration
London, Vintage, 2012, 291p
I intend for this summer to be the summer I read all those books that have been sat on the shelf behind my desk waiting to be read. This last weekend I have spent in Somerset with First Story, and although I didn't get much time to read (because I was doing other awesome things), I did find the time to indulge in The Land of Decoration.
Judith is a Jehovah's Witness. Like her father, she believes the end of the world is imminent, and soon she will be reunited with her lost mother. Within the confines of her room, she dreams of this new and beautiful land, playing with the world she has created out of cardboard and string. But when one of her playtime dreams comes true, Judith learns that such power comes with terrible responsibility.
You cannot help but sympathise with Judith. Her father still mourns the loss of her mother; her classmates pick on her and exclude her; and society calls names at her for her beliefs. She finds refuge in her religion, talking to the voice of God; and her experiences prove there are good people in the world - her teacher, for example, is a diamond in an otherwise tragic story.
Although I found this novel took some time to develop, it turned into something of a psychological thriller. It reminded me of The Icarus Girl - in The Land of Decoration, Judith finds companionship with her Godlike voice, and slowly their conversations turn dark.
I love the way this novel is written, drawing from a Biblical style that parallels Judith's imaginary world creation. I am not sure what Grace McCleen is trying to say about religion in this novel, and I am hesitant to speculate, but what I found fascinatingly thought-provoking was the sway between Judith's psychological distress and her ability to find peace in her faith in God.
But what was most poignant was the relationship between Judith and her father, a man who stands weak beneath the loss of his wife, the pressures of his faith and his distance with the society around him. You never doubt he loves his daughter, but you spend the whole novel wishing he could fully share his love and his life with her.