The Year of the Rat, Hardback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


I always thought you'd know, somehow, if something terrible was going to happen.

I thought you'd sense it, like when the air goes damp and heavy before a storm and you know you'd better hide yourself away somewhere safe until it all blows over. But it turns out it's not like that at all. There's no scary music playing in the background like in films.

No warning signs. Not even a lonely magpie. One for sorrow, Mum used to say. Quick, look for another. The world can tip at any moment ...a fact that fifteen-year-old Pearl is all too aware of when her mum dies after giving birth to her baby sister.

Told across the year following her mother's death, Pearl's story is full of bittersweet humour and heartbreaking honesty about how you deal with grief that cuts you to the bone, as she tries not only to come to terms with losing her mum, but also the fact that her sister - The Rat - is a constant reminder of why her mum is no longer around...


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: General
  • ISBN: 9781471120275



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Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book. This did not influence my review in any way.Oh man. Did I only just start this book this morning? It’s not even eleven and my nose is running, my face is red, eyes are puffy. Did I mention I read most of this on a train? Yes, I like to embarrass myself that much. I’m pretty sure I nearly started sobbing at one point.The world may tip at any moment.Pearl has lost her mum and gained a sister, all in the one breath. She doesn’t know how she’s meant to love the new baby when she is reason that their mum is gone. Consumed by her own grief, Pearl starts throwing up barriers to the outside world and is not going to let anyone break them down in a hurry. The only person Pearl wants to speak to is her mum – and strangely enough, this doesn’t seem to be an impossibility, because Pearl knows her mum isn’t completely gone. But she’s not completely here either.I’m sitting on the train after having finished this, have wiped my tears away with toilet paper and accepted the blotchiness may not fade instantly. Why was I crying? Who was I crying for? It wasn’t for the fact that Stella had died – as readers we don’t even really know Stella when we find out she has died – but for Pearl, and the fact that her grief is unfathomable. Sixteen years old and needing your mum more than ever, but only realising it when it’s too late. On top of that there’s a new baby that needs her dad’s attention so Pearl feels she has no one to share her sorrow with. No one knows, no one understands. No matter how hard they try. And this is – partly – why I was crying. (Also, it is very, very easy to make me cry!)Other reasons for my tears? The way Pearl couldn’t see how much her dad loved her, despite him not being her biological father. He was her father in all the ways that matters and it takes her a trip to Sussex to work that out. The way she just watched her life slip away from her, not really caring where she ended up. Shit I’m nearly crying now just thinking about this, but that last scene, where everything’s not good, not yet, but maybe, eventually, it will be okay again.I really enjoyed this book, despite all the crying. There’s a bit of dark, dry humour, there’s a bit of emotional upheaval, there’s the writing style I really enjoyed – actually being inside a sixteen-year-old’s head that I actually didn’t mind, even when I thought she was being unreasonable. Oh yeah, Pearl’s not always likable. There are times when I thought, okay your mum’s gone and that’s awful, but could you stop being a brat for like two seconds? Her off the cuff remarks could be quite hurtful and sometimes she did realise what she was doing, but didn’t stop. It’s hard to face moving on from the death of a loved one and even harder to watch the world move on without you, but these are the things you have to face, along with the consequences of the decisions made when your eyesight is blurred. Luckily, Pearl realises it’s not too late to begin to repair the relationships she has with people who are still here. I loved the emphasis on the important of family.Just one of those really great reads. Not sure when I’ll crack it open next for fear of more tears, but it has definitely earned its spot on my bookshelf. 

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