I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Lucky Bunny by Jill Dawson
Published by Harper Perennial on October 30, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Romance
Source: TLC Book Tours
Daring, clever, and alluring, Queenie Dove has spent a lifetime developing the skills of an accomplished thief. Born into a criminal family in London's East End during the Great Depression, and trained by a group of women shoplifters during the Blitz, Queenie soon graduates from petty street crime to far more lucrative heists and the seedy glamour of the city's underworld. But giving birth to a daughter will make Queenie finally try to go straight . . . until the opportunity to take part in one last, audacious robbery tempts her back to the life of danger and excitement she once lived to the fullest.
Told in Queenie's captivating and singular voice, Lucky Bunny is a richly colorful tale of trickery, adventure, and heart.
First Sentence: “Queenie’s not my real name, of course.”
I went into this novel with such high hopes. Audra of Unabridged Chick loved it, and I typically find that I agree with her on books. Unfortunately, my experience of this one was quite different, partly, I think, because of my prior reading history and because of the way the book was billed. For me, this book was slow and torturous, the characters utterly loathsome.
Your enjoyment of this book will likely hinge on how you feel about Queenie Dove. If you find her clever, cool and alluring, then everything will be copacetic. If, like me, you find her obnoxious and really don’t care what happens to her, the book will drag on seemingly endlessly. In part, my distaste stemmed from her name, as I read another book with a Queenie at the lead earlier this year: Code Name Verity. That Queenie has so much personality, strength, intelligence and charisma that this one paled in comparison.
My other problem with regards to expectation was that I thought this was a novel about World War II. It’s mentioned in the blurb and on the back of the book it’s described as “a world war II-era narrative,” which may technically be true, but is quite misleading. World War II doesn’t matter too much in Queenie’s life, though she lives through it. She was evacuated briefly toe the country and survived one tragic bombing, but that’s pretty much the extent of it.
Of course, had I read the synopsis more closely, I would have noted what the book is actually about: hoisting, theft, in so much as it is about anything. You see, this book doesn’t have a plot. AT ALL. I have liked plotless books in the past, because if the writing and ideas and characters are marvelous than I don’t need a plot to pull me through to the end of the book. Without it in this instance, it was a struggle to get to the last page. I had similar difficulties with David Copperfield, another fictional biography. Perhaps that subset of fiction is not for me.
I will say that the book improved when Queenie got older. The first 150 pages or so, though, were so entirely boring to me. A large portion of the book is devoted to Queenie’s tragic childhood, I guess to promote sympathy in me and make me care about her. Well, that didn’t work. Yes, her life sucked (gambler dad, insane mother, etc.), but I still found Queenie off-putting.
Precisely why I disliked Queenie so much, aside from expecting her to be like that other literary Queenie, is a bit hard to place my finger on. I suspect that lies in her narrative style. The book is written in a style that simply didn’t work for me, filled with odd slang and long sentences. I read a little selection of it to my parents, who found it pompous and said it sounded like she was ‘trying too hard.’ The cadence of the sentences just didn’t come off particularly naturally. With a really good narrator, though, I imagine this could be a marvelous audiobook.
As much as there was one, the main conflict of the book regarded domestic abuse. Like her mother before her, Queenie settles down with a man who beats her. He first hits her in public and not just once, yet she stays. In the narrative, she considers how much other people blame the abused woman for allowing the abuse, for staying; she calls this victim blaming. She has a point, of course, but I still feel wholeheartedly that she should have kicked him to the curb the first time he slapped her.
Undoubtedly this book will work for others and I urge you to check out Audra’s review, which I linked to up above, for another viewpoint. The whole book just rubbed me the wrong way.
“I’ve never been one of those women who looks at herself in the mirror and takes everything apart, critical, you know. What a waste of time that attitude is! Young girls today make me sorry for them, always dissecting their own bodies, like they’re one of those maps of a cow in a butchers’ shop. Me, I take my lead from Gloria. I look in the mirror, slap my lovely fat behind and say to myself: yep, Queenie, looking good!”