Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

1999 Women's Prize for Fiction Winner

A Crime in the Neighbourhood by Suzanne Berne


Publisher: Owl Publishing Company

Length: 285 Pages

About: Coming of age crime story

Style: 1st person

Where: US (Wasington suburb)

When: 1970s



Publisher’s synopsis:

A murdered boy, a runaway husband, a family spinning out of control-- Suzanne Berne's A Crime in the Neighbourhood is no ordinary coming-of-age novel. The narrator of this dark tale of 1970s suburbia is 10-year-old Marsha, who lives with her mother and older twin siblings in a suburb of Washington, D.C. In the spring of 1972, a young boy is molested, murdered and then dumped behind a shopping mall. That the child was not particularly likeable is just one of Berne's deviations from the expected, as clear-eyed Marsha recalls the boy's many character flaws, even as she relates the details of an undeniably horrifying crime. Though murder is the most visible crime in Marsha's neighbourhood, it is by no means the only one; when Marsha's father and aunt run off together, their enormous betrayal sends Marsha's mother into a tailspin and Marsha into a strange dalliance with Mr. Green, the neighbour next door.





Of course, for many people who grew up in the `70s, childhood was spent between parents, rather than with them. If parents didn't actually divorce, they certainly thought about it, often out loud, and sometimes requested their children's advice. I've heard horror stories about Christmases spent in airports, scenes at high school graduations, photo albums with one parent or the other scissored out. I've heard so many of these stories that they're no longer remarkable - in fact, they have stopped being stories at all and have turned into cliches, and the more predictable the worse they are: the father remarries a witch who dislikes his children and turns him against them; the mother remarries a brute who likes her daughters too much. But any cliche has a fact for a heart, and the fact is that marriages, like political alliances, broke up all over this country in the 1970s, which in the latter case at least had never happened before.






True, this debut by a Massachusetts essayist and storywriter is a coming-of-age tale, but the greater ethical issues its author explores raise it well above typical first-novel fare.

Kirkus Review 15th March 1997 for full review click here


Not so good:

If I have a quarrel with this wonderful book, however, it is that the framing devices the adult Marsha employs occasionally seem mannered; she insists a shade too often on sentences using ''I imagine'' or ''I remember.'' There is never any doubt, after all, that Marsha is the most reliable of narrators. She is completely convincing about the evasions and moral shabbiness of others; she is also completely convincing about her own.

Jacqueline Carey, the New York Times, 20th July 1997 - for full review click here


About the author

Born in 1961 in Washington DC. She attended Georgetown Day School. She was educated at Wesleyan University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She presently lives with her family near Boston and has taught at both Harvard University and Wellesley College. She is associate English professor at Boston College. She currently lives in Boston with her husband and two girls.



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Age guide: 15+









Novels by same author:


























Adaptations: None to date









2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

Extract from New York Times to view full article...

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