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Featured debut author: Carys Bray - A Song for Issy Bradley

(25 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 18-May-15 17:19:35

Our featured debut author this month is Cary Bray, author of the brilliant novel A Song For Issy Bradley. Carys has shared her top ten tips for writing for budding authors.

The Bradleys are a devoted Mormon family who are struggling with the loss of their youngest daughter, Issy. Ian Bradley retains a steadfast belief that he can rebuild their lives and overcome grief if he stays committed to his faith. His wife Claire has retreated completely from family life and abandoned faith and the hope of her life ever being happy again. Siblings Zippy and Al are exploring their teenage years. Then there's Jacob: aged seven, he believes in miracles and wants above everything else to bring his family back together again.

Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and selected for the Richard and Judy Summer Reading Book Club, this is a novel which speaks to parents, sons and daughters and anyone who has faced grief and asked the question of how to go on when a loved-one is gone.

We have 50 copies to giveaway for discussion (on this thread) or review. If you’re interested, apply here before midday tomorrow (19 May)

This giveaway is sponsored by Random House. If you're luck enough to receive free copy, please do tell us what you think about it on the thread below, or in our Book review section.

DuchessofMalfi Mon 18-May-15 18:30:38

Bought a copy of this last week. Hopefully will get to read half term smile

pippyparsons Thu 04-Jun-15 12:03:49

I really enjoyed the book and i will definelty look for some more of this authors books to read

weathermum Thu 04-Jun-15 13:57:26

This is a very moving story and I was crying through some of the chapters..I found the information about the Mormon faith very interesting although it wouldn't be for me.
I am a great believer in family life it is the most important aspect of our lives giving our children and other members security and LOVE.
It is a brilliant piece of writing although I did find the "love scene" too explicit for my liking together with the "F's" and "S's" it seemed so out of place with the rest of the book and most unexpected.
The book cover too is really attractive and the questions and answers at the back very interesting.

Andrews55 Thu 04-Jun-15 16:47:53

I have received my copy and look forward to starting it soon. The book seems to have already gained some favourable reviews.

CoogerAndDark Thu 04-Jun-15 17:00:13

It's a fabulous book. Not an easy read, in places, due to the subject matter, but I would certainly recommend it.

cathisherwood Thu 04-Jun-15 19:50:19

I found this book engrossing. I liked the way the different members of the family took us through their experiences and feelings. I too found the information about the Mormon faith interesting as I had never thought about British people being involved in the Mormon church. As a story I enjoyed the book and the emotions it evoked although the I find it hard to imagine characters actually behaving like that - surely Claire and Ian must have understood each other better after having been married so long
A moving book - highly recommended - thank goodness it had a hopeful ending

funmummy48 Mon 08-Jun-15 17:52:45

Thank you for my copy of this book....I loved it! I associated the Mormon Church with America so was quite surprised to find the book based in the UK. I too enjoyed the fact that we heard the story in sections from the view point of different family members and enjoyed Ian's "take on things" although I found it a bit puzzling sometimes, due to his faith no doubt. I didn't feel that Claire had ever really accepted the Mormon faith and wonder if that's how "oustiders" often feel. Ian seemed to accept everything blindly without question whereas Claire couldn't quite immerse herself in some of the more extreme beliefs. The women in the story came over as a rather bitchy and back stabbing lot....very much at odds with their beliefs. I wondered too, how much discord there was in all the peripheral families in the story....what was going on in their homes whilst they were presenting themselves to the congregation as good, faith abiding members of the church?

lasttothebar Tue 09-Jun-15 16:45:53

Just back from holiday to find I'd received a copy look forward to reading it

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 11-Jun-15 11:30:11

Thanks to all those who have contributed to this discussion thread so far. It's great to see so many people agree that this is a very special book and also that it has been allocated Mumsnet Best award in the adult fiction book reviews.

SuzCG Thu 11-Jun-15 12:21:08

Thank you Mumsnet & Penguin Random House for my copy of this book.

A very interesting book, to learn something about the Mormon religion, especially in a British setting (as my preconception was a USA based religion).
I found this a captivating read and quite moving in parts.
I haven't lost a child of my own, although suffered the loss of my very dear niece at the age of just 19 months - and from that all I can say is that each and every person in our family dealt with her passing and the days, weeks, months and years after in their very own individual way. I personally questioned much about the what, why and how's of life and religion during that time.
Live for today, fellow Mumsnetters and celebrate the unique wonders of our wild and wacky (well mine certainly) families at every available moment. There's no right and wrong!

DontWorryBaby Thu 11-Jun-15 19:44:20

Thank you Mumsnet and Random House for my free copy of this book.


I have to confess, I apply for all of the book giveaways as I read pretty much anything so approached this book knowing absolutely nothing about it. During the first few chapters, waiting for the inevitable to happen, my initial reaction was one of 'ahhh it's another book about the loss of a child, not my idea of entertainment!' However, there was a real build up of tension and fear and then sadness when Issy passed, and the novel thereafter was brilliant. I loved the chapters from different view points, I thought this was really successful in demonstrating how differently we all cope with grief. I also loved Alma's character; the fact that he was so sarcastic and turning away from his faith and yet still responded so warmly to kindness from Brother Rimmer - and the hug from his dad will stay with me for a long time. The Mormon aspect was interesting to me as an outsider, but there was much more to the book than that. A great first novel by Carys Bray.

BCCecTed Wed 17-Jun-15 13:40:10

I really enjoyed this novel in spite of the heartbreaking beginning. As a new mother I thought I wouldn't be able to read on after Issy's death but the story is compelling, amusing and at times heartwarming. I was particularly interested by the family's different views/reactions to living life as a Mormon and indeed the introduction to the religion itself (as others have said, my first thoughts were that the novel was set in the US). A great read!

Thanks for the free copy!

Andrews55 Thu 18-Jun-15 12:13:10

This is the story about a grieving Mormon family. The author explores how each member of the family is coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, while at the same time, struggling with their religious beliefs. The book is so moving because it looks at how death has affected the entire family, especially the children.
This book is wonderful - a beautifully written, powerful debut novel, which I shall be recommending to friends.

ArriettyC Sun 21-Jun-15 19:50:50

Just finished the book this morning. Really really enjoyed it. Liked the characters and was interested to learn about the Mormon faith. I think very true to life as the author grew up as a Mormon. An absolutely heartbreaking story of different members of a family's ways of coping with a tragic loss. Found some of it very distressing eg the early pages when Issy is deteriorating. And was umcomfortable with the intimacy scene much later on when Claire remains immobile. I like being challenged by a book though smile.
At the end, it is not entirely clear which way Claire turns - towards her family or towards suicide, which made it so touching. I think she probably did turn towards her family though.
I will look for other books by this author for sure.

MrsSchadenfreude Sun 21-Jun-15 19:57:15

I thought it was brilliant, much better than Elizabeth Is Missing, which was also shortlisted for the Costa prize. I read the end as Claire turning back to her family. I found it very interesting - I have all but lost a formerly close friend to the Mormons, and this book confirms to me just how barking their religion is.

mcjury Mon 22-Jun-15 14:54:37

Mumsnet eview
This is a difficult book to review, and the reader’s response to it may vary quite a bit depending on your circumstances/outlook/religion.
The book ‘s subject (a strictly religious family’s response to the death of a child) means that it is not a book I would have immediately picked off the shelf – but thanks Mumsnet for sending me a copy to review.
The writing is good, and it is easy to turn the pages. The characters are well drawn, likeable, and easy to get to know, and have sympathy for. The reader does get drawn into the family life and circumstances and the ‘world’ is believable.
The author is an ex-member of the Mormon church, and obviously has a (probably strong) view on the Mormon way of like and morality. This comes through in the writing, and the presentation of the life of the female characters certainly made me constantly angry. The central kernel of the story, the passing of youngest daughter Issy, is obvious sad. But at many times, almost unbearably so.
Due to both these aspects, I was debating with myself during the entire book, as to whether I could read on, or wanted to read on. My curiosity won out, and I did finish the book. It’s a testament to the quality of the writing that the book did provoke very strong emotions for me.
However, whether you would want to read a book that will make you constantly angry and deeply sad – that’s your call.
The decider – would I recommend it to a friend – on balance, I would have to say, no.

BigGapMum Fri 03-Jul-15 22:49:52

As this book deals with the sensitive subject of the death of a child within a strict Mormon family it was a brave choice of subject for a first novel for this author, but I think it was a success. The book describes the different ways that the family members deal with their bereavement, and the effect they have on the rest of the family.
Although it was obviously going to be emotional, I didn't find the book overly sentimental, but I found that I had a lot of empathy for the family, apart from the father, but really I suppose it was just showing the way he reacted to the bereavement in an equally valid way to the rest of the family.
I found the underlying theme of the Mormon religion added a really interesting and informative aspect to the whole book. Not really knowing much about the religion beforehand I feel that its given me a bit of background knowledge now ( and to be honest it didn't seem as bad as I anticipated - but I'm still not going to join).
I enjoyed reading this book, and would probably recommend it, but not to anyone that I thought was particularly sensitive. Its probably a bit too much an emotional subject for that.

serendipity1980 Thu 30-Jul-15 09:48:05

Thank you Mumsnet for this brilliant book. I knew nothing about it, and at first the religious content put me off - I'm not at all religious, however, I became interested, I knew nothing about the Mormon religion, and got caught up in the individuals journeys through this terrible period in their life. I found it deeply saddening in the build up to Issy's death, really heart wrenching. But afterwards it felt emotional but not overly dramatic. It was very well written and interesting to consider the different reactions and how they are all valid.

A brilliant first book, and one I would recommend.

Tigerlily13 Mon 10-Aug-15 15:08:47

Thank you for the copy of this book. It was a good book, easy to read but hard to say enjoyable really as it dealt with such a sad subject. The religious aspect annoyed me a little as why should anyone be told 'how' they should grieve. However I did find it interesting to learn a little about Mormons and feel it portrays life accurately as the writer grew up Mormon. I liked how it told the story from a three children's point of view and how they chose to handle it in different ways.

gailforce1 Mon 10-Aug-15 19:13:46

Picking up a copy from the library tomorrow. Had to reserve it and was on a long waiting list!

DuchessofMalfi Tue 11-Aug-15 13:44:48

I think I must be the only person who didn't like this novel. Found myself getting quite annoyed by the characters. Especially Ian's attitude towards Claire.

gailforce1 Sun 30-Aug-15 16:23:16

I thought that this was an engrossing and well written first book.

Lovemylittlebears Fri 29-Jul-16 20:14:03

Sorry to start a zombie thread but I have just finished this book and it was fantastically well written...but I'm not sure I fully understood the ending - unless that's the point? Anyone care to explain the ending to me please? Been a long time since I have had a chance to read a full novel smile

NP12 Tue 19-Dec-17 16:48:45

I came across this feed when googling “ Did Claire die?” . I have reread the last section many times and just can’t. Make my mind up. So was very pleased to hear that others felt the same. I kind of want her to be rescued by her family ... those poor children have been through enough ...but I am not sure that they do. Clever ending

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