Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
Baby is twelve. Her mother died soon after she was born so she lives with her father - and his heroin addiction. She's grown up in Montreal' red-light district, never staying anywhere long enough to call it home, and now Baby is losing the only constant in her life; her father. He's been sent to hospital and she's been forced into foster care. She longs for his return; other people's families are no substitute for her own. Starved of affection, Baby is attracted to all the wrong people. And when her father betrays her and she is sent to a juvenile detention centre, she is more at risk than ever. Baby' survival rests on her gift for spinning stories and for cherishing the small crumbs of happiness which fall into her lap.
There are so many reviews of this book out there, and it’s difficult to find one which will say a bad thing about this book. It has been praised so highly that I had no choice but to read it. It’s described it as outstanding, witty, riveting and believable. To me, unfortunately, this book was none of these things, and I cannot begin to imagine why people thought it was. I hated it from beginning to end; it was truly awful.
When I start a book, I like to finish it. I like to get a good idea of the writing style, and if I hate the book from the beginning I like to see whether or not my opinion can be turned around. This has been known to happen. Forcing myself to finish Lullabies was nothing short of self-torture. There was nothing in this book that made me want to keep reading. The characterisation was laughable! I had no shred of concern about anyone in the slightest. This is a very young girl who has been thrown into a world of prostitution and addiction. O'Neill did absolutely nothing to evoke my sympathies in this girl; in actual fact this poor abused girl was a chronic irritation. From the beginning, pieces of plot are thrown at us for nothing more than shock value. I didn't feel shock. I didn't feel anything because I wasn't connecting with anything in this book at all. It was a completely numb experience for me.
The Independent on Sunday said this book was full of 'magical imagery'. I do beg to differ. O'Neill tried too hard to romanticise scenes, giving us the most ridiculous imagery that could ever be imagined. Her similes were irrelevant and nonsensical; it seemed as though they were just thrown in to put stars in our eyes. Each sentence seemed to be a line of nonsense which had just been thrown in for effect. The plot ended up extremely disjointed as a result of this - I had no idea where I was for the majority of my time reading. I’d have laughed if I wasn’t too busy grinding my teeth.
Not only did O'Neill overly fabricate her writing style, her morals leave something to be desired as well. There was no sense of right or wrong in this novel, the themes of addiction and prostitution were embellished into elements of a wonderful, glamorous life. There was no shred of empathy, just a severe elaboration of a girl's poverty stricken life.
Although I can appreciate what O'Neill was trying to do with this novel, it is safe to say that she has missed the point by a long shot. I could go on and on about this book's shortcomings, but I would be sitting here for a long time. I just can't even begin to fathom why this novel has won and been nominated for so many book awards, where better novels have deserved to win, but have missed out. It’s shocking.
If you value my opinions at all, please avoid this one. I feel like I have wasted my time reading and reviewing when I could've been reading something else. Avoid like the plague!
30 / 72 books. 42% done!