Book Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult Leaving Time

A library borrow 🙂

About the author (from official bio):

Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty-four internationally bestselling novels, including My Sister’s Keeper,  and The Storyteller. She has also co-written two YA books with her daughter Samantha van Leer.

She studied creative writing with Mary Morris at Princeton, and had two short stories published in Seventeen magazine while still a student. Realism – and a profound desire to be able to pay the rent – led her to a series of different jobs after graduation, and she worked as a Wall Street technical writer, a copywriter, a textbook editor and an 8th grade English teacher before entering Harvard to pursue a master’s in education. She married Tim Van Leer, whom she had known at Princeton, and it was while she was pregnant with her first child that she wrote her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale.

Four of her books have been made into TV movies and My Sister’s Keeper was a cinema release. She has received numerous awards and now lives in New Hampshire with her husband, three children and a menagerie of animals.

About the book:

Jenna Metcalf was with her mother, Alice, the night she disappeared, but she remembers nothing about it – and nor does her father, as far as she can tell. He is in an asylum and unable to help her understand what happened. Now, Jenna lives with her grandmother, who finds it too painful to talk about what happened, and the world of the elephant sanctuary where she was raised is just a memory.

Ten years on, Jenna is the only one who still seems to care; to wonder and worry, trying to fit the pieces together. With  no family to help her, she must get some unlikely helpers on-side in the shape of a washed-up psychic, Serenity, and the police officer who has done all he can to put the night of Jenna’s mother’s disappearance behind him.

What I liked:

I loved the way the story alternates between the viewpoints of Alice, Jenna, Serenity and Virgil, and merged the lessons learned about elephants, memory, loss and grieving into the story that surrounds these characters. As with all the Jodi Picoult books I’ve read, the story is clever, although the pace is a little slow to start with. However, the tension is maintained and the language is understatedly elegant.

Every main character had a strongly individual voice and I became completely engrossed in the story of each of them, hoping passionately for a happy outcome for them all. The information about elephants was fascinating and integral to the plot points (although see below).

And finally… the twist. It made me stop, go back a little and read on again, just to make sure I’d understood. It’s not a massively original idea, but I didn’t expect it in this story – or in any JP novel; I thought I knew exactly what I was getting in terms of the book’s quest, so it was a surprise.

What I wasn’t so keen on:

Not much, although Virgil was a little stereotypical as the ‘damaged cop’ who drinks too much and has let himself go, and there were one or two points where the book felt a teensy bit too preachy and intense on the subject of elephants and how they’re treated, particularly in the first half of the book. I think the editor needed to be a little more zealous here.

I suspect there will be people out there who don’t like the ending of this book, feeling it’s much less grounded in normal human lives than a usual Picoult wrap-up (I can’t explain in more detail without spoilers!). I thought it was clever, though, and found it believable in the context of a belief system I don’t believe in – i.e. it’s no different, for me, than reading a book in which a character is healed by their belief in Christianity. Just because I don’t believe that can happen, doesn’t mean I can’t read a book in which it supposedly does.

Overall, for me, a big fat winner! 🙂


I is for Intriguing: Shapes, History, Evolution, Letters and Jonathan Creek

Intriguing: ‘to arouse the curiosity or interest of by unusual, new, or otherwise fascinating or compelling qualities’

I’ve written about things that intrigue me before.

File:NautilusCutawayLogarithmicSpiral.jpgIn What Pleases The Human Eye, I wrote about my fascination with certain mathematical shapes, and how I find the fact that we humans find certain shapes pleasing to the eye (even when there seems no good evolutionary reason why) even more intriguing. Plus of course historical mysteries like The Shell Grotto in Margate, which I wrote about in A is for Amazing.

Then there’s this fact: no.1 of the 7 ‘Things You Never Knew About Me‘, which I wrote as part of a blog chain:

  1. I’ve no idea who one of my great-grandfathers was. His name is missing from my late grandmother’s birth certificate, whilst the man her marriage certificate names as her father has the same surname as her mother’s maiden name…This is either a)fake b)a coincidence, because the surname is very common d)suggests incest as it is the name of a fairly close family member. a) is most likely.

That’s pretty intriguing. I’ve had help from the local archivist, too. No luck. I’ll probably never know who my great-grandfather was.

What else do I find intriguing? Anthropology. Human evolution, which I even studied it at degree level for a while. Some of the earliest hominid fossils discovered look nothing like each other, yet both have features that indicate they’re possibly our ancestors. You can discover more about this here on the Smithsonian site. How can that be? So much for the missing link…

Other things that have ‘fascinating or compelling’ qualities for me are Jonathan Creek (not thTalk to us!e last mini series though; what was going on there?!) and the new Sherlock Holmes. I like a good mystery with twists and turns. And Jodi Picoult novels (oooh, she’s so good).

I love letters, postcards and diaries from the past too – I sometimes get my fix from the brilliant website Letters of Note. And finally, I’m constantly intrigued by the plethora of facts, references and articles offered to my tiny little brain via the marvellous skills of the Qi Elves (via Twitter and on the website – you can find out more about the Elves themselves here) and Maria Popova’s fabulous Brain Pickings website.

In fact, I may not be intriguing, but I’m pretty darn intrigued on a daily basis. So there.