Book Review: Closed Doors by Lisa O’Donnell

Closed Doors by Lisa O'DonnellClosed Doors: What it is about

The publisher says: “Eleven-year-old Michael Murray is the best at two things: keepy-uppies and keeping secrets. His family think he’’s too young to hear grown-up stuff, but he listens at doors; it’’s the only way to find out anything. And Michael’s heard a secret, one that might explain the bruises on his mother’s face.

When the whispers at home and on the street become too loud to ignore, Michael begins to wonder if there is an even bigger secret he doesn’’t know about. Scared of what might happen if anyone finds out, and desperate for life to return to normal, Michael sets out to piece together the truth. But he also has to prepare for the upcoming talent show, keep an eye out for Dirty Alice, his arch-nemesis from down the street, and avoid eating Granny’’s watery stew.

Closed Doors is the startling new novel from the acclaimed author of The Death of Bees. It is a vivid evocation of the fears and freedoms of childhood in the 1980s and a powerful tale of love, the loss of innocence and the importance of family in difficult times.

Closed Doors: What I thought

Of course, I couldn’t help comparing this book to the wonderful The Death of Bees, the award-winning debut by this author (the Commonwealth Book Prize 2013). It’s less quirky, more realistic, but just as heart breaking.

A better comparison is made to Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. In both cases, there are 13 year old boy protagonists in a small town, trying to fit in with their peer group. In Closed Doors, Michael has a secret: his mother was attacked, but this is not to be mentioned to anyone. People would gossip. But things soon get out of control and the family has to reconsider whether they want to keep their secret.

Michael listens at doors and finds out half truths, being too young to understand the full story. During all of this, he kisses his first girl (and his second!) and starts to change his opinions on the people around him.

It was a little slow, but very believable and the story develops really well. The limitations but also the advantages of living in a small town where everyone knows everyone are very well described. No wonder, the author herself grew up in Michael’s little town on a Scottish island, as we can read in the acknowledgements.

For coming-of-age readers, Lisa O’Donnell fans, and Black Swan Green fans, and anyone who likes stories from children’s viewpoints.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (good to very good)

Number of pages: 246

First published: 2013

I got this: from the author, just because I loved her previous book, The Death of Bees

Genre: contemporary fiction

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6 Responses to Book Review: Closed Doors by Lisa O’Donnell

  1. debbierodgers says:

    This sounds like something I would enjoy very much – and I’ll try hard not to compare it to her wonderful The Death of Bees which I read in October. 🙂

  2. I wasn’t that impressed by The Death of Bees so wasn’t planning to try this one, but then you compare it to Black Swan Green – a book I LOVED! Now I’m all confused and may have to put it back on the TBR pile.

  3. Laurie C says:

    Boy, that cover is misleading, making it look like a children’s or YA novel to me. I also loved Black Swan Green, like Jackie, and I thought The Death of Bees was pretty memorable, although I never got around to reviewing it. Thanks for reviewing this! I’ll be on the lookout for it.

  4. Pingback: Sunday Caught My Interest | Reflections from the Hinterland

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