Friday, 5 February 2016

Review: Leaving Time - Jodi Picoult

I first discovered Jodi Picoult when I was about fifteen and immediately fell in love with her strong characters, her morally and ethically challenging conflicts and her killer plot twists. I must have read the majority of her 23 books in the couple of years that followed. 

I usually struggle with 'mainstream' books of this kind, and by that I mean books heavily focused on relationships, whether that's familial or romantic. We're talking Nicholas Sparks-esque novels that are written so basically and are stuffed so full of clichés that you can barely read one sentence without wanting to throw up your insides. Sorry, I just can't hack it. But the thing about Jodi Picoult is that she can write. Really well. And although many of her plots involve intense relationships or slightly fantastical sequences of events, the essence of her stories is real and gritty, even if the writing itself isn't that gritty. 

I think that during my literature degree years (yes, it was long enough ago that I can say that now) I pushed Picoult aside as a guilty pleasure, but as of now I'm reclaiming her as one of my faves. Because you know what? I think she's great. And that's all that matters. 

Leaving Time is about a thirteen year old girl, Jenna, who is searching for her mother, an elephant researcher, who disappeared when Jenna was only three, and it's Picoult's signature mystery and morality based plot and central theme. 

This book wouldn't be half as enchanting without the overarching elephant motif, which is delicately but purposefully spun into issues of human memory. If you weren't fascinated by elephants before you read the book, you certainly are by the end. 

I'm forever amazed by the lengths that Picoult goes to in order to adequately research a book, from spending the day with a police inspector to shadowing an expert on elephant memory . It just takes once glance at the acknowledgements to understand how thorough her research is. 

Throughout Leaving Time, Picoult skilfully weaves her way through time, flitting backwards and forwards with each new chapter. Charismatic and believable characters are something Picoult creates effortlessly. Anecdotes, faults and character quirks seem second nature and her writing is all the more rich as a result. In particular, I'm always impressed by her teenage voices, as it seems to be something unavoidably over-clichéd by the majority of authors. I didn't for a second doubt the credibility of Jenna's narration and all of her actions felt real and just. 

This novel, like a few of Picoult's others explores issues of a supernatural, spiritual and clairvoyant nature, and if you read the acknowledgements then it is clear that these are happenings in which Picoult fully believes. For this reason, even if you doubt such presences yourself, you can't help but get sucked into the realities of the book. 

As with the majority of Picoult's books, Leaving Time finishes with a killer twist, which I tried to second guess but completely failed. Although, for perhaps the first time, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the ending. It's certainly a shocker, and leaves many questions lingering in your mind for days after. 

Have you read any of Jodi Picoult's books? I'd love to know what you think and I'm always keen for book recommendations, so if you have any, leave them in the comments! 

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