I’m going to attempt to keep this review very short. I did not like The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay at all. Not even a little. The book aims to tell the tale of what happens when a somewhat slow-witted but harmless young woman, Mary-Margaret witnesses a miracle, maybe. Religious mania descends on the Church of the Sacred Heart in Battersea, London. The consequences are devastating, not only for Mary-Margaret but for others, including Father Diamond, the parish priest, who is in the midst of his own lonely crisis of faith, and Stella Morrison, adrift in a loveless marriage and aching for her ten-year-old son, away at boarding school. Meanwhile another mother, Alice Armitage, counts the days until her soldier son comes home from Afghanistan, while Mary-Margaret’s mother, Fidelma, imprisoned in her tower block, stares out over the city through her window with nothing but her thoughts for company (Amazon provided most of this recap).
The problems are many, but here we go. First, the introduction to the story, told through Mary-Margaret’s eyes ends up being more confusing than it needs to be. Second, there are no chapter breaks in this 200 page book and the narration slides back and forth between the characters listed above without any real demarcation and at times incredibly rapidly. Third, I found it impossible to like these characters. Fourth, Kay’s writing is far denser than it needs to be.
I appear to be alone in my feelings on this book, as it seems to have garnered quite a bit of praise when it was published this January. Also, Kay won the 2009 Orange New Writers Award but I just don’t get it.