A young boy on a small Scottish island where everyone knows everything about everyone else, will discover that a secret is a dangerous thing in this tense and brilliant tale of from Lisa O'Donnell, the bestselling author of The Death of Bees, winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize.
Eleven-year-old Michael Murray is the best at two things: keepy-uppies and keeping secrets. His family thinks 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 waiting to be discovered. Scared of what might happen if anyone finds out, and desperate for life to be normal again, 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, and avoid eating Granny's watery stew.
Closed Doors is a vivid evocation of the fears and freedoms of childhood and a powerful tale of love, the loss of innocence, and the importance of family in difficult times.
About the Author
Lisa O'Donnell's debut novel, The Death of Bees, was the winner of the Commonwealth Book Prize. She won the Orange Prize for New Screenwriters for her screenplay The Wedding Gift. She lives in Scotland.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Excellent and funny and sad and real and raw and simply wonderful
I adored Lisa O'Donnell's debut novel The Death of Bees. And so did a lot of others - O'Donnell was the winner of The Commonwealth Book Prize. When I heard she had a new novel - Closed Doors - I jumped at the chance to read it. O'Donnell has again set her novel in the recent past. Closed Doors takes place in the early 1980's on a small Scottish island where eleven year old Michael Murray lives with his mother Rosemary, his unemployed father Brian and his Granny. Michael is busy practicing his 'keepie-uppies' for the talent show the neighbourhood kids are going to put on, arguing with his arch nemesis Dirty Alice and keeping an eye on what goes on in his bit of the world. But when his mother comes home from work bruised and bleeding, he's sent to his room. Why won't his ma go to the police? Why is he told to tell the neighbours she fell down the stairs? What happened to her? Confused and worried, Michael needs to know what happened to her and what is going on. "I listen at doors now. It's the only way to find out stuff. No one tells me anything." Life has changed drastically for the Murray family. As adult readers, we know what has happened to Rosemary. And as adults, it is heartbreaking to watch Michael try to make sense of things. He continues to listen at doors, hearing bits and pieces and being told half truths as the family struggles to keep things quiet. But gossip in a small town cannot be contained and when another woman is hurt, there can be no more secrets. O'Donnell has created yet another wonderful child narrator in Michael. His voice is real, running the gamut of emotions. There is a sense of innocence in the children of this island. Part of it is the insular nature of island living, part of it is the time period used. I can't imagine this same story being told in present day. O'Donnell has chosen time and place well - it absolutely works. The loss of that innocence makes Closed Doors a coming of age tale in so many ways. "It's terrible to know too many things about people. It makes you feel like a liar because you have to act like you know nothing at all when the truth is you know everything there is to know." "Lies make people happy, I think, and that's why people tell them, not to hurt or anger anyone, but to keep them safe from the truth, except our lie, the lie Ma and Da and Granny are telling to themselves and everyone else around them, it is the worst of lies and it is making no one happy and when lies don't make you happy, you have to wonder what will happen nest. O'Donnell also deftly explores family and family dynamics in Closed Doors. What secrets would you keep to protect your family? And at what cost? Closed Doors is another great read from a talented wordsmith. I'll be waiting for book number three.