Magazine article The Spectator

Apocalypse Now

Magazine article The Spectator

Apocalypse Now

Article excerpt

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen Chatto, £12.99, pp. 304, ISBN 9780701186814

The blurb on the front of Grace McCleen's debut novel (from Room author Emma Donoghue) proclaims it to be 'extraordinary', and goes on to praise it as 'brutally real', commending its mixture of 'social observation and crazy mysticism, held together by a tale of parent-child love'.

Unusually for a blurb, this is all accurate.

McCleen's novel may not be perfect, but it has a compelling and, at times hideously tense narrative that makes it an arresting read. It is deservedly named as one of Waterstones' most promising debut novels of 2012.

Owing something to both Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Stephen King's Carrie, the story concerns ten-year old Judith McPherson, living with her widowed father in a depressed small town in the 1980s. Judith and her father both belong to a fundamentalist religious sect that believes in the imminent arrival of the apocalypse, but for Judith the end might as well already have arrived.

Bullied by her classmates, in particular the son of her father's nemesis Doug Lewis, she finds herself becoming increasingly solitary. Her only company is a vividly imagined fantasy world, the titular land of decoration, made up of assorted oddments that she finds around the house. …

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