Book Review: The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss


Title: The Year of the Rat
Author: Clare Furniss
Published: January 1st 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: 352 pages

I purchased a copy of this book.

Book Blurb (via Goodreads):

To Pearl, there’s nothing sweet about her premature half-sister, Rose. It was Rose that caused her mother’s death and Rose that turned her world upside down.

To Pearl, Rose is The Rat.

Achingly sad, yet refreshingly real, The Year of The Rat will make you laugh, cry and hold your loved ones a little bit tighter.

My Thoughts

A beautifully honest look into the grief a child is left with after a parent dies and the way that it affects their life, The Year of the Rat doesn’t shy away from the brutally honest and real reactions of a teenager whose life has been turned upside down. Heart-breaking from page one, this book doesn’t shy away from showing things as they are.

Pearl has lost her mother, and it’s all because of the tiny baby that she has dubbed ‘the Rat’. Drifting through the days as her step-father spends all his time and attention looking after the baby, Pearl closes herself off and clings to the memory of her mother – whose ghost appears regularly to talk to her. Pearl struggles to bond with her new sister, argues over her grandmother moving in – as her mother hated her, and tries not to give the worst impression of herself to the cute boy next door.

Pearl’s struggles were refreshingly honest to read. It’s hard when someone you love dies, especially when it’s a mother who has died to bring a sibling into the world. Why should she love the little sister that killed her mother? Her thoughts about her baby sister are startling and horrid, but come from her grief and a deep sadness within her. I’m not sure how I would feel if I had been in this situation. The fact that her best friend is all over the baby in the normal way that people coo over newborns makes Pearl feel worse, and I can understand why.

Having to deal with a completely new situation in life is hard, but having to do it without your mum around is even harder. Pearl loses herself in a world of grief, clinging to the memory of her mother to get her through the days, until she slowly starts to let go and realise that maybe she had been wrong about some things.

The process that Pearl follows in the year after her mother’s death is long and difficult, with lots of misplaced anger and feelings of helplessness. This honest look into grief is shattering. This book makes you cry and feel like you have an aching hole inside you. Pearl’s grief becomes partly your own as you look at the life she is pushing aside to wallow in her misery.

Deeply moving, The Year of the Rat is open and honest about death and the chaos it can leave in its wake.


This book is available at the following links:

Non-Affiliate: Amazon UK | Amazon US

Affiliate: BookDepository

About the Author

Furniss grew up in London, and moved to Birmingham in her teens. After brief stints as a waitress, a shop assistant, and working at the Shakespeare Centre Library in Stratford-upon-Avon, she studied at Cambridge and Aberdeen. She went on to work in media relations for the homelessness charity Shelter and spent several years as a press officer for the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. She now lives in Bath.

You can find out more about Clare at the following links: Website | Twitter

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